Monday, March 22, 2010
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Patterson and Maxheimer get congressional recommendation

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[March 22, 2010]  Two young men who have never met have walked the same long road, or as one of them would prefer to call it, a "roller coaster" of an experience.

Recently, Logan County natives Butch Patterson and Erich Maxheimer received the prestigious nomination from U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, to attend the military academy of their choice. One of the main prerequisites to enter any of the nation's higher education military academies is to receive a nomination from a U.S. representative or senator.

Patterson, a senior at Hartem High School, and Maxheimer, a senior at Mount Pulaski High School, have both made it through the rigorous process, chosen over dozens of highly qualified applicants much like them. Still, there must have been something different about these two to have won such a high honor.


It all began for Patterson one late afternoon when he arrived home from basketball practice. When he walked into the house, he found his father, Ray Patterson, sitting at the table with an obvious presence about him as if he wanted to have a serious "life" talk with his son. Patterson recalls his father asking him the question, "Why do you want to go to college?" And he remembers replying with a "generic" answer: "I want to go to school so I can get my degree and get a decent job." But his father, not accepting that answer, responded, "Son, have you ever considered what the military could do for you?"

Ray Patterson, having served in the U.S. Army himself, began to describe to his son a military school of higher academia: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which is about 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River.

The idea of attending such a far-away school can seem surreal to a young man located in central Illinois, but as soon as Butch Patterson began researching West Point, he was immediately hooked. He was first amazed by the political leaders and business tycoons who have graduated from USMA at West Point. Realizing this, he knew an education from such a place has the possibility to take him anywhere he wants to go with his career endeavors in civil engineering.

"I've been interested in maps and geography, architecture, and just about anything like that for as long as I can remember," explains Patterson.

For Maxheimer, the drive to apply to his school of choice, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., came last summer. But the real driving force, says Maxheimer, is the military careers his older brothers have had. Not only does he come from a long line of family in the military; his older brother, Chad Maxheimer, has served in the Air Force and was honorably discharged in 2005. His other brother, Chris Maxheimer, currently serves in the Marine Corps in North Carolina.


His mother, Suzie Maxheimer, recalls the visit to the Air Force basic training graduation of older brother Chad.

"Erich was 10 years old and was like Chad's shadow that entire visit," she said. "He would follow him everywhere and march right alongside him."

She adds, "He was so captivated by everything going on."

Maxheimer is also an Eagle Scout as of 2009, a journey that he says has definitely matured him. It came as no surprise to the Maxheimer family that Erich chose to take the application path for the academy, but no one could have prepared them for the rigorous journey this has been.

In both cases, these young men have been taken down a path of strong development through resume/application preparation, essay writing and experiencing the interviewing process with top political officials. Both had to go through the interview process with congressman Schock's panel of top staff in his Peoria office.

Patterson recalls: "I have never been so nervous in all my life. It was so intimidating walking down this long hallway to a door, not knowing what was about to (happen) on the other side."

Suzie Maxheimer recalls a cold day of bad weather conditions trying to get to the Peoria office on interview day. "Not to mention I was also a wreck that day," she laughs.

For her, she says this is bittersweet. "His father and I are so proud of him, but this is also our 'baby,' and he will seem so far away."

She adds, "But we are so proud of him to serve our country. I know Erich takes great pride in the fact that he will be serving his country."

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"At the end of the process, after all of the filters, there were 20 finalist applicants who received the scholarship from Congressman Schock," says Dave Natonski, Schock's communications director, who is located in the Washington, D.C., office. That was from a field of 48 highly qualified candidates.

According to Natonski, of those 20, there are 10 who are awaiting appointment from the U.S. Air Force Academy, four for the U.S. Military Academy, three for the U.S. Naval Academy and three for the U.S. Naval Academy Marine Officer division. All of these 20 who received nomination from Schock, including Patterson and Maxheimer, are awaiting official appointment from their school of choice.

Both young men comment that this process has taught them great patience. And although an official appointment would be the ultimate happy ending, both young men are proud of how far they have come in the process and are grateful to have experienced this.

Without an appointment, both would still continue to pursue a civil engineering degree, Patterson at a state university and Maxheimer at U of I in Champaign, where he has already been accepted.

Patterson and Maxheimer credit their families for their incredible support and various teachers and coaches as well.

Theo Elliott, mother to Patterson, exclaims: "I believe it takes a village to raise a child. And our village has been great for Butch, that village including our church family at Trinity Episcopal Church."

She adds, "Our priest, Rev. Jim Cravens, spent a lot of time with Butch asking him questions and helping to prepare him."

Suzie Maxheimer gives great praise to Erich's father, Mike Maxheimer, for his involvement with their son, such as his commitment with Boy Scouts all the way through and teaching him all along the way.

Both of these fine young men, who share so many similar interests and are involved in many of the same activities, have one more thing in common: They both continue to be tremendously patient, waiting to see what their very near future holds. Both are confident that no matter what, their futures look bright.  


Resources used and further information:

West Point:

Naval Academy:

Air Force Academy:

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock: 


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