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Falcon Through And Through: Falconer Senior To Attend Air Force Academy After Graduation

Aidan McCleery (right), a Falconer senior, was recognized during a ceremony at the school Thursday morning for being accepted into the Air Force Academy. He was delivered his appointment by Colonel Andrew Carlson (left). Submitted photo

FALCONER — Falconer Central School senior Aidan McCleery will be trading one falcon mascot for another as he sets off on his journey to the Air Force academy after graduating from Falconer.

McCleery will have to miss graduation because of timing, and the school honored him at an Awards Ceremony on Thursday morning, where McCleery received his appointment to the Air Force by Colonel Andrew Carlson, a 1999 graduate of Panama Central School.

Carlson is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. He attended George Washington University earning an M.S. in Systems Engineering under the Program Research and Education in Space Technology scholarship. Colonel Carlson is an Air Force Command Pilot and Instructor with over 2,300 flight hours in the F-15 Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper to include over 600 combat hours. He is currently the Commander of the 107th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard located in Niagara Falls.

“It was an absolute honor to deliver Aidan his appointment to the United States Air Force Academy,” Carlson said. “He is the valedictorian of his class, a remarkable athlete, but most of all he has made the decision to serve his Nation in the world’s greatest Air and Space Force. We look forward to seeing his many future accomplishments.”

McCleery made the decision to join the Air Force after graduation because of watching both of his parents serve their country. His father was a pilot for 20 years and his mother was an air traffic control officer.

“Watching them, I got to see what serving looks like,” McCleery said. “I want to do something that is bigger than myself and bigger than what I could imagine on my own.”

McCleery described finding out he was accepted to the Air Force academy as an “unreal” feeling. He was heading to the gym early on a Tuesday morning before school when he opened his email and saw the acceptance letter.

“When I opened my email and saw the letter, there was a weight lifted off of my chest,” McCleery said. “I knew I was set for the rest of my life. I knew deep down that everything was going to work out and for the next nine years I will have a job and be able to be successful and live the life I want to live.”

For McCleery, having the school recognize him with a ceremony was very nice. He said it was special to have Commander Carlson come down to say the official statement accepting him to the Air Force academy, and to be able to have his family come in to watch.

“It’s nice for me and my family because I won’t be at graduation so it was nice to have someone recognize all of my hard work and have my family there,” McCleery said. “Of course I don’t do it for recognition but it was nice to have someone say my hard work has paid off.”

Having a student accepted into the Air Force Academy is exciting for Falconer school as well, McCleery said, adding that as far as he knew he was the first person from Falconer to be accepted. As a small school, McCleery said Falconer can still produce some amazing students, not just him but his whole class as well.

“We might not have as many AP classes or as many students but we have a school and the staff that give students what they need,” McCleery said. “I hope my journey can show that things like this don’t just happen in large schools. It’s not just myself but also my classmates that will go on to do amazing things. I want to make sure people know Falconer is an amazing place to grow up, learn and live.”

As he heads to the academy, McCleery said he is not sure what his specialty will be yet, though he does plan on swimming at the academy too. The Air Force Academy also offers the ability to be a part of the Space Force program, so McCleery will have the ability to choose between the Air Force and Space Force programs.

“I want to be the first to do something and the Space Force is a great area to be able to do something new,” McCleery said. “I haven’t decided what exactly I am going to do but I want to do something significant that is bigger than myself.”

As he, his classmates, and other students at other schools prepare to graduate, McCleery said he wants everyone to remember that hard work pays off, especially with determination.

“No matter how the cards are stacked I think there is something to be said for determination,” McCleery said. “I never pictured I would do what I am doing now but if you have a desire to make a difference you can have the success that you want. I hope to be able to make the world a better place, and just want people to know I never gave up and I never gave in.”

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