Air Force Academy graduate 2nd Lt. Blake Jones poses with his sister Navy Ensign Madison Jones, a Naval Academy graduate. (Liz Copan / Air Force)
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As 995 graduating Air Force Academy cadets walked across the stage May 28 at Falcon Stadium, thousands of their family and friends beamed from the stands.
But when one cadet — newly minted 2nd Lt. Blake Jones — received his commission, his oldest sister was watching from halfway around the world. Army Capt. Brooke Jones, who graduated from West Point in 2009, viewed a livestream of the ceremony from a conference room at her post at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.
What’s more, Blake Jones became the third member of his family to graduate from a different service academy in five short years. His middle sister, Ensign Madison Jones, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2013, and attended Blake’s graduation along with their parents and grandparents. Not even the vast distance separating Brooke Jones from her siblings could dampen the pride she felt.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Madison and Blake for their accomplishments,” Brooke said in an email. “My sister, brother and I have always been close and loyal, but the conversations we have had over the past nine years are special. I’d argue that [Blake] is the ‘brains’ of the family — I am really excited to watch his career as an officer begin.”
Except for a great-grandfather who served in the Army in World War II, the Joneses didn’t come from a military family. But after Brooke began attending West Point, Madison said, “we all kind of followed suit individually.”
“Each of us chose our service academies based on our personality,” Madison said. “We’re all very different in a lot of ways. Each of our service academies kind of fit our personalities perfectly.”
Madison said she loved the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the first time she visited it on a recruiting trip five years ago, and said the Navy’s concept of honor — that it should be built within each service member, not forced upon them by a code — spoke to her.
Blake said he felt that becoming an Air Force officer would allow him to pave his own way while also serving his country.
“I wanted to follow in their footsteps without following exactly in their footsteps,” Blake said.
And having two sisters who went through their own service academies gave Blake a good support network, and motivated him to keep going through the challenges, especially during his freshman year.
“If I needed someone to talk to about academy problems, I had someone to call,” Blake said. “There were many times I called and said, ‘It would be a lot easier if I went to a normal college.’ They would talk to me and say, ‘This is just something you’ve got to get through. These are things that you’ll look back on and say, I’m glad I did that.’ I don’t want to say I wouldn’t have graduated without them, but they helped me keep my eye on the prize.”
Blake said that throwing his cap in the air and watching the Thunderbirds fly over Falcon Stadium were the highlights of his graduation experience. His first assignment will be contracting at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Madison is a surface warfare officer assigned to the amphibious assault ship Essex at San Diego. And Brooke, who has served in Iraq, said she leads a small team of human resources experts for a brigade combat team.
The siblings, originally from The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston, laugh about the fact that they ended up serving in three different branches of the military. Brooke jokingly described the three as “a house divided.”
“Made for an interesting football season,” she said.