Panthers in uniform

“You will always be in my thoughts and prayers.” – Kurt Ruffing


Photoshop of six Elder High School seniors committed to serving their country

I recently had the opportunity to interview six of my fellow classmates, who have one thing in common, they will be serving our country.  Elder has a long history of patriotism and encourages each student to contribute their gifts.  These six men of Elder have talents to share, values that will benefit society, and a passion for the flag. The military will be lucky to have these Panthers in uniform.

I first sat down with Matt Allison ‘19 and Tyler Schutte ’19. These two seniors have enlisted in the United Sates Army and will be leaving Cincinnati in mid-July. Matt will begin his basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and will continue his job training at Fort Still,

Tyler Schutte ’19, United States Army, Fort Benning Georgia

which is located in southwest Oklahoma.

Tyler will be spending his first year of training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Which just so happens to be the same base that my father, Matt Deters ’92, trained to become an Army Ranger. I continued my interview by asking them why they chose the Army as their branch of choice, Matt exclaimed, “I choose the Army because I got to pick the job that I specifically wanted, and it’s the branch that I’ve always wanted to go into.”

Similarly Tyler added, “My family has a lot of history in the Army, many of them served, and my great grandpa actually lost his life in WWII.” Matt finished the interview by telling me what he appreciates most about our country, he expressed, “I appreciate the freedom that we have in this country and as Toby Keith said “freedom don’t come free” so I’m just doing my part to uphold that.”

Unknown to Matt, I got a hold of his Mom for some follow up questions. I asked her how proud she was of her son and his commitment to serve, to which she replied, “I am very proud of Matt, but along with the pride is a great deal of anxiety.  I am very proud of Matt’s decision to serve his country.  I am also proud that he could make this decision knowing that he will be leaving all of his friends and family, and be missing out on many events.”

Matthew Allison ’19, United States Army, Fort Jackson South Carolina

She continued by saying, “I will miss him terribly.  I will miss his morning hugs and us telling each other to have a great day.  I will miss being worried on Friday and Saturday nights wondering what he is up to.  I will miss his helpfulness around the house.  I could go on forever, but the bottom line is that I will miss him a lot!”

Mrs. Allison finished by stating, “I just know that with faith and prayers, we will survive the miles apart. I would like to ask you to ask your readers to pray for Matt as well as the other young men of Elder who have made this decision and all of the 2019 grads.”

Next, I talked to Ben Johnson ’19, who will be continuing his academic and service career at The Citadel Military School in Charleston South Carolina. He chose this route because he values structure, hard work, discipline.

Ben Johnson ’19, The Citadel Military School ’23

He highlighted the pride he has in his country by saying, “What I appreciate most about my country is its freedom, and the opportunity to become whatever one desires.” Ben also mentioned his plans for after college, “Hopefully I’ll move on to dental school to later become an orthodontist, and work at my uncle’s orthodontist office, or enroll in officer candidate school to become an officer in the marine Corp.”

On April 19th, Gunnar Wall ’19 accepted his appointment to The United States Naval Academy. I asked him what led to his decision to which he responded, “My uncle and a couple close family friends attended the Naval Academy. It has always been something I wanted to do, but I never thought it was a reality. As college started to approach I decided to go for it.”

He added, “The thing I will miss most is my family and friends. Not a day goes by where I don’t spend time with my siblings, cousins, or friends. It makes it easier to know that they are the reason I want to do this.”

Olivia, Gunnar’s oldest sister, had a few things to say about her brother’s acceptance. She expressed her joy by saying, “Pride is kind of immeasurable. I know that I can’t wait wear my Navy gear and be able to tell people that my brother is at the academy. I’m really really happy for him because I know how badly he wanted this.”

Gunnar Wall ’19, United States Naval Academy ’23

She went on to say, “Gunnar has a special talent. He can push anyone right to their breaking point and then right when you’re ready to lose your mind, he finds a way to make you laugh. For example, I could be going to the pantry looking for a snack. Gunnar will run ahead and block the door. He’ll say things like “I’m really hungry”. “I can’t find anything to eat”. All the while he’s just standing there. In the way. When he can tell that I’m about out of patience, he’ll let me through but only after he lets off a solid one liner that will have me in stitches. As annoying as I’ve always found it to be, that’ll be one of the things I miss the most. And his dance moves. Dude can throw down.”


Olivia ended by stating, “It’ll be really different not having him around and we’re all going to miss him so much. However I know that our family is very excited to visit Annapolis and visit often. Hopefully Gunnar’s sense of humor translates well into his writing. They’ll take his phone on Induction Day and we’ll only be able to write letters throughout the summer.  Anchors Aweigh, Gunnar. I love you!”

Next, I got to talk with Brad Gemereth ‘19, who enlisted in the United Sates Marine Corps the minute he was eligible, “I chose the Marine Corps because it’s just always what I wanted to do since I was in the 5th grade. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and protecting people, and I figured I could do it all at once by joining the military.

Bradley Gemereth ’19, United States Marine Corps, Parris Island South Carolina

I asked Brad what he will miss the most about Cincinnati, to which he responded, “Definitely Skyline Coneys, my family, and my friends.” He will be training in Parris Island, South Carolina for 13 weeks for boot camp. He will get two weeks recruitment duty back home, and after that Brad finds out where he will be stationed.

Lastly, I interviewed Tim Finley who accepted his admittance to The United States Merchant Marine Academy in March. He will also continue his athletic career by joining the Academy’s football roster.

Tim started off by stating, “I love how free our country is. Growing up I never planned on serving but always loved to see my family members in the armed forces. I want to give back to my country. I believe I’ve had a pretty great life and just want to serve in order to keep our freedom.” He continues by mentioning his father, a police officer with CPD, saying, “Seeing my dad go to work every night putting his life on the line to protect our city makes me want to serve.”

When asked how he became interested in the Merchant Marine Academy, and what ultimately led to his decision, he stated, “My dad gave me the idea to look at the Academies as an option for college. Once I bought in to the idea of a Military Academy, I fell in love. I visited the Naval Academy and West Point and really wanted to go to the Naval Academy at first.”

He further explains by saying, “However, I received the nomination to The Merchant Marines Academy from Steve Chabot and was contacted by the football coach. The coach invited me for a visit, and at my overnight stay I could tell, I wanted to be there. The opportunities coming out of the Academy are unbeatable.”

Timothy Finley ’19, The United Sates Merchant Marine Academy ’23

Tim wrapped up the interview by talking about the things he’s going to miss the most, “I am going to miss my family and my friends the most. I will only come home a few times over the next nine years. Going to an academy isn’t easy and my social life will be gone. I am cherishing every last opportunity to do what I want before I have to listen and be forced to do everything by others. Also, the Cincinnati food will be greatly missed.”

I privately reached out to Tim’s parents, Shelly and Thomas Finley ’92. I asked the Finleys about Tim’s commitment to serve, “I couldn’t be more proud of his nomination and appointment to attend a Military Academy and serve our country,” Mr. Finley beamed, while Mrs. Finley added, “I am incredibly proud of him, he has always had a love for his country and I am honored that he will be serving our country.”

I asked them what they will miss most about Tim while he’s away in New York, to which Mr. Finley replied, “I will miss his hard work ethic, determination and willingness to always help others.”

Mrs. Finley sums up her relationship with her son seamlessly, by saying, “I will miss everything about him, his smile, his ability to make me laugh, to make me crazy, his love for his family and friends and knowing you can always count on him to help out and be there. His larger than life personality, his determination to do his best with everything he puts his mind to. It has been an honor to watch him become the amazing young man he is today.”

In conclusion I asked principle Ruffing if he had any words of encouragement for these six panthers gearing up for the next chapter in their lives, to which he graciously responded, “Thank you for making the commitment to serve in our nation’s military. The foundation of your life that was formed while attending Elder will provide all you need to be successful in your future endeavors, especially what you will be doing as you protect and defend our wonderful country.”

He wrapped it up by exclaiming, “You will always be in my thoughts and prayers. Altiora and make sure to visit your alma mater when you return to Cincy!” I think we can all second this sentiment.  Your Elder family is proud!