Steamboat Springs High School graduate Maddie Ruppel receives a kiss on the cheek from her mother, Jill, during the girls soccer team's senior night April 17. Ruppel was accepted into three United States military academies and will begin at West Point this week on a full scholarship.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Steamboat Springs High School graduate Maddie Ruppel receives a kiss on the cheek from her mother, Jill, during the girls soccer team's senior night April 17. Ruppel was accepted into three United States military academies and will begin at West Point this week on a full scholarship.

Steamboat grad begins life at West Point this week on full scholarship

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— In the spring, graduating Steamboat Springs High School senior Maddie Ruppel had a thick envelope waiting for her in the mailbox when she returned home from a soccer game.

The house was empty, but the heavy piece of mail with the United States Military Academy at West Point letterhead inscribed on it already told her the news.

She didn’t open it, though. She phoned her parents and little brother with a simple message.

“Get home. Now.”

There she sat in the family’s kitchen, with her brother capturing the whole thing on video — Ruppel opening her acceptance to West Point on a full-ride scholarship, her dream coming true.

It was actually the final acceptance letter Ruppel had gotten from a United States military academy, but the most coveted by far. It was also the third acceptance she had gotten in a span of just one week, after months checking the mail two, sometimes three times each day, wondering if the letters ever would come.

Despite living in a military household with a father who served in the Navy for 23 years, Ruppel said she hadn’t given life after high school much thought until, well, when high school started.

“I really liked the military culture and the way of life we had growing up,” she said. “I didn’t mind that aspect. I think I liked the challenge, so I saw that as a good way to go. I didn’t think about West Point really until my senior year when I visited. It blew me away with its tradition.”

That tradition is imprinted proudly on the campus’s facades — a campus that looks like the real-life version of Hogwarts overlooking the Hudson River, she said. Duty, honor, country: Duty is what we do, honor is how we do it and country is why we do it, the motto states.

Her scholarship is worth more than $200,000 throughout her four years of study. After graduation in 2018, she will be obligated to serve five years active duty and then three years in the reserve.

Starting Wednesday, Ruppel will begin basic training, commonly known as the Beast Barracks. Most of the academy’s training comes during the summer, she said, with everyone taking their core engineering, math and sciences classes toward their Bachelor of Science degrees. Ruppel said she hopes to enlist in West Point’s art, philosophy and literature option and plans to take on a foreign language component, as well.

It’s been a roller-coaster three weeks for the teenager, having left Steamboat just a week after graduation and spending the remainder with family outside of town. She has had her moments of clarity — Am I really doing this? — here and there since school let out but said her support system is unparalleled.

“It’s been really hard to say goodbye,” Ruppel said. “I left Steamboat about a week after graduation. That whole week I spent with friends and people there. It’s pretty incredible. The support the community has shown me is overwhelming. It’s a good feeling to know as I go off, they’re rooting for me back home.”

She received a roaring standing ovation at the high school’s scholarship night June 4, when she officially accepted her admission to West Point. Strangers have offered their congratulations since then. Even an unknown emailer, a West Point alum, offered to buy her dinner and talk about the next step.

The nerves are settling in, she admitted. But in militaristic fashion, Ruppel is determined to shelve the goosebumps and get to work with the next four years ahead of her.

“It’s funny. Whenever I do get a chance to think about it and realize it’s this week, a lot of feelings occur,” Ruppel said. “I’m nervous, definitely scared a little, but very excited and grateful. I’m to the point, though, that it’s like, bring it on. It's game time.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Headline and article doesn't understand how West Point works. There is no such things as a "full scholarship" at West Point because it does not charge tuition to any student. The required service after West Point is how they justify not charging tuition. Considering almost no college grads can pay back students loans in five years plus a few months, West Point is a wonderful educational choice.

The big deal for West Point is getting admitted. Not easy at all.

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Kevin Nerney 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Congratulations and good luck to you. Thank you in advance for your service.

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah, they offered me a full ride too, said they'd even find my Congressional sponsor for me.

I didn't even respond. That was post-'Nam. I ended up here instead.

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Eric Morris 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Kevin, you provided a great service with the Pirate's Pub. The lunch special helped making living in Steamboat somewhat affordable. She is just making a rational economic decision to avoid potentially crushing debts; I made a similar one by joining the imperial forces. She is just "serving" the schizophrenic empire: she may have to attack some people that are now considered allies, or vice versa. Please see Soviet Union in WWII, the Vietnenase sneakers I am now wearing, Iran over the years including for and against Saddam (Iran Contra) and just last week against ISIS, who the muricans like in Syria against the sometimes good guy Assad (see Buchanan's article today for further info), Gaddafi, and of course the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Not to mention the repressive Saud family, home of 15 of the mass murderers of 9/11 which much of the current decisions for more war against former friends is based upon still many years later. She may end up serving in the NSA to spy on our phone calls. Good economic decision but definitely not the service I would recommend.

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Kevin Nerney 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Eric, Joe Nerney here, as a 5 year Veteran of the Marine Corps anytime you would like to discuss the Empire's complete take over of the world I would be happy to induldge you. However please let this young girl who got into one of the world's most prestigious universities (not just because it is a military academy it is literally one of the best engineering schools) have her moment of glory.

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Kevin Nerney 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Also the Mujahideen are still on our side in Afghanistan the Taliban were never part of the Muj

I was there I met them I know

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john bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

congratulations , Maddie , what an honor to get accepted to West Point. some join our military for all the right reasons , some for all the wrong ones , Eric , you fall in the latter , correct ? my best man's daughter went to same route as this fine young lady having the time of her life serving our country.....Rhys , was it your flat feet ?

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

John, I can't make the joke I want to about flat feet, without upsetting family sensitivities and in case prying eyes are watching... suffice it to say that, some months later, I was persuaded into enlisting in the Jarheads, a move which I did for the wrong reasons, justifying it with the right ones.

I told everybody I was joining because I wasn't ready for college yet, not in my mind, I could use the break to learn a trade, earn the GI Bill, learn a little who I was before I went back to school, when I wanted to, not felt like I had to... pretty much how it worked out... when the real reason was, I was trying to scare Carol into saying "No Rhys!! Don't go!! I love you!!" but when she said "You'll be sorry" I thought #### it and did it.

Lucky for me the Marines taught me programming, which has provided various income over the years to this day, when my own misadventures fail... I got distracted from law in college, fell for TV, did that for a few years, leading me to this town, then abandoning that profession.

If I would have gone to West Point, I would have gone into law. That road would not have likely ended up here. Life would be SO DIFFERENT right now... I might be working on a different Hill. Imagine THAT!!

Good luck Maddie!!

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Eric Morris 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What is the right reason? Listening to our phone calls, bombing people around the world that are sometimes our friends, not being able to defend the HQ of the department of "defense" on 9/11? Please explain the right reasons, what the military has done to defend and protect you, and I may go back to the opinion I had before I joined. I did join for patriotism and all that originally; now I can only justify that decision by saying it was a great economic decision. I did not join as a mercenary but came to the conclusion that is what every one of us pawns were in fact.

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john bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

sorry you left delusional , too bad they couldn't weed your kind out before spending all that money training you for defending our country.(the right reason) perhaps a few more attacks on the home soil will make you see the error of your ways. they do fight over there so we don't need to kill em here those that only want us dead . you only joined to further yourself at the expense of the tax payer if I remember correctly (the wrong reason). but then lets not spoil this great news coming out of Routt county shall we ?

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I tried walking on at West Point but they thought that I was overqualified.

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Mark Ruckman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Congrats on being accepted by top notch school.

Please ignore the people who find a negative in your accomplishment, for they have a condition that doesn't allow them to control their impulse to spew negative everywhere they go.

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott pointed out the obviously flawed headline and we are having a little fun. Her accomplishments are admirable and it is a shame that the habitually offended try to score points of indignation..

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Eric Morris 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes, it is a great school and it proves she is very intelligent and well-rounded and the paper thought this was newsworthy. Therefore, I can offer her my views on some of what I consider the negative or true aspects of her bargain with the USG. I agree the native muj did not become Taliban but Northern Alliance. However, much of the covert money funneled from CIA to Saud to Pakistan's ISI went to the foreign fighters in Afghan, which are also muj. (Not specifically bin Laden because he was rich and had his own source of Saudi money.)

John, we did not defend the homeland. We are spread around the world. Please read Chalmers Johnson, or better yet, retired COL Andrew Bacevich, who graduated from West Point, fought in Vietnam, and lost his WP son in Iraq. I was in Kuwait mostly, where we defended the emir who threw a subject, yes correct term, in jail last week for being critical on twitter of lack of freedom in Kuwait.

Please explain nexus or connection of all our entanglements abroad and defending your freedom at home. Just because you say or think we are defending the country does not make it so. Blowback is the term, coined by the CIA itself. At least they got that right.

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Eric Morris 2 months, 2 weeks ago

And John it is somewhat ironic and sad that you use the same reason that the bin Laden used to justify attacks over here, because we are over there. See his 1998 fatwa: http://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, some on this board are projecting one heck of a career for her. Her career is projected to range from special ops, to NSA chief, to Secretary of State, to Defense Chief to responsibilities of the President. Not sure if that means she is expected to be President or just Chief of Staff.

Here I was just thinking she was trying to get a good education and serve with honor.

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john bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott, i'll go with ,serve with honor, Eric, sorry i'll stay with defending the country you can see it anyway you want . sad for you as you served for your own self interests. we don't need your kind in our military . but you can reap all the benefits of the country that you live in . and yet you can dis those that do serve how ironic......your a disgrace to those in uniform . and i'll leave it at that , good luck Maddie , serve us well.

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jerry carlton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Eric mistakes the soldiers for the politicians who send them to many questionable wars.

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Eric Morris 2 months, 2 weeks ago

People vote these pols into office and vote by joining the military. What if you held a war and nobody came? At this point, almost 13 years into this round of war, no adult should harbor any illusions about the noble endeavors of the organization they choose to join.

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What most people fail to recognize -- including and especially the military -- is that the defense-of-freedom justification is a myth, perpetuated by the Federal Reserve for the profit of its member banks -- and the defense industry itself, industry that it is, led by Cheney's Halliburton, now doing jobs formerly performed by the military -- mess, transport, construction, just to name a few -- at ten times the salaries for these civilians, compared to the military they replaced. Then you've got your PMC's -- Private Military Companies -- the mercenaries; Blackwater, DynCorp, Anaconda -- private citizens skirting international law, by officially being classified as "tourists" -- black ops, snoop-and-poop, no chore too dirty -- starting pay, $200K.

I can't say I'm any smarter than the rest of y'all, especially by the evidence -- so I wonder why it is, that I see a money-making charade, a shell game, and most people see it as us-and-them.

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mark hartless 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Rhys,

Patriotism blinds a lot of people. Look what it had otherwise sensible Germans doing a century ago.

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Touche. I think we should just go home and let them kill each other all day long. The Eurasians overtook the Indians; the walleyes threaten the trout; some tribe will ultimately prevail, our attempts to export democracy, a failed and expensive repeat of Vietnam, but just as profitable for their sponsors. We aren't saving societies or ousting dictators -- we're intervening in tribal wars that have gone on for thousands of years, and will into the foreseeable future -- mainly to protect out valued oil resources; one hiccup in crude prices, and the world goes into a frenzy. We ATTRACT the bad guys -- without our presence, they would have nothing to fight. They're flying in from all over the world for a shot at us. And that, just because we are there.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The military subcontracting was excessive and a bad idea when it encouraged people to live the military to do a similar job for far higher pay for a subcontractor.

The USA earned a reputation for being the good guys in WW I and WW II when the USA did not try to profit from being on the winning side. We were more interested in giving people their countries back than expanding our colonial empire.

When the US honors our principles and sides with people seeking democratic values then we do far better than when we play the political game and try to align with the powerful that are oppressive.

A coworker was in Tehran when the Shah fell doing computer work for the intelligence service. He said most people that opposed the Shah were seeking democracy and freedoms like the US and they turned to the Ayatollah after the US rejected them and tried to prop up the Shah's regime. He said the way we betrayed them meant that we would be hated for a long time.

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jerry carlton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott and Rhys I agree with you both. It is the politicians and the corporations that are betraying us, not the soldiers. Become energy independent and we would have no reason {excuse} to be intervening all over the world. Maybe then we could protect our own borders from a foreign invasion.

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Kevin Nerney 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Joe Nerney here again (5 years in the Corps 2 tours to afghan)

Can we please stop comparing Afghanistan to Nam? I've noticed that most of the people here who are against her service seem to be around that age group so let me remind you all something, WE GOT OUR SH*T ROCKED 9/11/2001 you want to talk about the defense of freedom Rhys? How about revenge for the towers? I'm not saying we have done everything right and I'm not saying we haven't made mistakes in the war on terror here and abroad. I'll be damned though if you claim that Haliburton and the federal reserve are the only reasons we do anything. Y'all clearly think entirely too highly of these people in Washington. They aren't smart enough, nor can they keep a secret long enough for things like that to be kept out of the public spot light. And no I'm not talking about Loose Change, they were a bit off, I'm talking there would be hundreds if not thousands of people coming out and telling the world that Haliburton drove ops in Iraq. And they would tell it with an inside view. It ain't gonna happen.

Again CAN WE PLEASE LEAVE THE POLITICS OUT OF THESE COMMENTS this young girl has a lifetime to change her views (which i doubt she'll do her father being a 20yr Navy man) but as for now her accomplishments should be admired and praised she joins the less than 1% americans who have not only served but served with a degree from West Point. The ranks she will be joining include the likes of Patton, Ike, and Sherman. She should be praised not criticized and damned for the actions of the government she hasn't even been old enough to have voted for.

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What a load of crap. 9/11 was the biggest fraud ever perpetrated upon mankind, and quite effectively, judging from comments above -- even those who have "been there" buy into the conspiracy.

The film shows the plane wings slicing through the tower walls like hot knives through butter -- when in reality, they should have peeled back like the relative paper they are, compared to the structural steel they supposedly cut through. That film was doctored.

The girders were cut at clean 45-degree angles; look at the pictures. Only thermite can do that, and our government controls that.

There were multiple explosions, many independent video's show that -- that was a precision demolition; those buildings imploded, and fell in a very precise and planned fashion.

Building 7 -- former home of the NSA and many other sensitive agencies -- was also leveled, despite closer buildings suffering heavier damage still standing, and NOTHING TOUCHED IT. Watch the video of that, for a lesson in how to do demolition right.

The plane which supposedly hit the Pentagon TOTALLY DISAPPEARED -- nary a piece was found.

Flight 93, which went down over Pennsylvania, supposedly at the hands of the passengers, was actually shot down by F-16's; I heard an FAA official say, at the time, "We had to bring it down." There was no way, considering the technology of the day, any cell calls could have been maintained from that flight; the cell towers were just too far apart, and the plane did not have the capability. Again, somebody went to a great deal of trouble, to synthesize a non-event.

If you want to deny the overwhelming evidence, and keep pulling the wool over your own eyes, fine. Just quit trying to make me sound stupid for seeing through it.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Kevin,

Invading another country is a terribly ineffective way to provide internal security. Terrorists just move to some other country with weak internal security. We invaded Afghanistan because we were hurt and angry and we wanted to show that we were powerful and were going to catch those behind 9/11, But as a means of providing security in the US, it was pointless and ineffective.

9/11 was such a terrible failure of airplane security that the FAA and airlines should have been blamed for leaving such an inviting target. After PSA had a crash in 1987 where former employee killed the pilot and the plane crashed killing all 43 on board, the NTSB tried to move to have secure cockpit doors. Airlines and FAA fought to avoid those changes as being costly and adding weight.

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jerry carlton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Scott Improve your reading skills. "Joe Nerney here again......." What Branch of the military did you serve in Scott?

Rhys Keep smoking dope. We agree the government and military industrial complex is a load., but when you start dissing individual soldiers and spouting your internet conspiracy theories, we part company.

Joe Well spoken. I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. Did not go to Nam and that is probably why I am pot free and appreciate the sacrifices our young people make today.

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john bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

gotta agree there Jerry , Rhys has me scratching my head on that one....~;0). Joe , when are you gonna get your own account , your confusing the masses......LOL

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rhys jones 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't see where I dissed any individuals -- quite the contrary, I applaud the military, who do their job well, despite the obstacles, truly believing in their objective, and for minimal pay -- as opposed to the contractors and their companies, who are really raping this country.

Re/conspiracy -- that's not a tenth of the evidence I have seen; it's out there for anyone to find, if they just look. I'm not dragging that up again -- I was just countering a point previously made. I WILL say that I worked on the center in Glendale AZ, ostensibly a fire and search-and-rescue training facility, which also housed Homeland Security's nerve center, where ALL international TV newscasts are monitored and whitewashed, in many cases the reporters told what to say. I'm just telling you what I saw, and heard from reputable sources -- you draw your own conclusions.

PS -- USMC, 4 years, E-5 (Sgt) Vietnam Era (only got as close as Okinawa) Honorably Discharged. They made me a programmer, our Univacs were battlefield-deployable, that skill pays to this day, and I have spoken in other forums about VA medical care and the GI Bill. I've got no complaints about the military. They done me right. My experience was atypical.

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mark hartless 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"Invading another country is a terribly ineffective way to provide internal security." That is exactly right.

They call Afghanistan the "Graveyard of Empires" for a reason. Unfortunately, Americans are about as knowledgeable of this region's history as they are of basic economics.

The government is appaerently also short on topo maps of Afghanistan as well.

"Let's invade Afghanistan!! What could possibly go wrong?"

Blind patriotism is also a terribly ineffective way of providing security. In fact, it usually just pisses the hornets off even more.

Same problem in Iraq. Sadam H. was a counterweight to Iran. They bled each other. He also cracked heads and kept the entire country together. So what did we do??? Screwed that up too.

Long term solution is easy but nobody has the guts. It's simple, really. Here's the spill: We are done messing in your affairs, World. However, there are only two possiblities for any nation that attacks us.

1. We make your nation the 51'st state of the USA. It's oil and other natural resources are ours forever, case closed. Orrr..

2. Your nation will glow in the dark for 1,000 years.

Mean that and be willing to prove it and let 'em kill each other. Life;s too short to deliver free pizza to people who hate us.

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Peter Arnold 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Congratulations Maddie and best of luck at the academy!!!

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