Aspen siblings soar to new heights at military schools
A brother and sister who reached great heights in academics and athletics while growing up in Aspen are now sharing great achievements in military schools.
Jeremy High graduates May 28 from the Air Force Academy while his sister, Tara High, graduated May 17 from the Uniformed Services University, the medical school for the U.S. military.
Jeremy, 23, is leaving the Air Force for a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. His inability to see some colors limited his career options in the Air Force, so he sought the commission in the Army.
Tara, 27, is a lieutenant in the Navy and is preparing to start her internship in general surgery at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.
There’s nothing like a couple of graduations from different military schools to fuel sibling rivalry.
“My family gets annoyed that we’re constantly arguing about which branch is better,” said Tara.
The Highs are from a longtime Aspen family. They are the children of Joe High, a physical therapist in Aspen, and Tricia Cline, a former Aspen businesswoman who now lives in Sacramento, Calif.
Jeremy was a top-notch hockey player who left Aspen in his freshman year in high school to live in Billings, Mont., where he played Junior A hockey in the American Frontier League.
He was recruited by several colleges but canceled all visits when he was accepted by the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, according to his dad.
Tara was so good at ice skating that she moved to Denver for special instruction during the eighth and ninth grades. She returned to attend Aspen High School and graduated in 1994.
“I think it is important to show the young kids of the Roaring Fork Valley that it is possible to reach your goals,” Tara said.
Both the Highs credited their time in the Aspen area for helping build their character.
Camping, hiking and participating in every sport possible as a kid gave Jeremy a distinct advantage during his Air
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Force training. Believe it or not, he said, soloing overnight as an eighth-grader in an Outdoor Education program was tougher than some aspects of cadet survival training. In Outdoor Education, you are a 14-year-old all alone. In survival training he was dropped off with nothing but a compass and ordered to find a certain spot on the map by a certain time, but at least he was with two other cadets.
Tara considers Aspen “an amazing place to grow up.” The community can produce “a whole buffet of things” for people to do. It’s up to them to choose how much and what type of items they take.
“You just have to make the right choices,” she said. “I don’t think there could have been a better place to grow up, but I know some people feel differently.”
Tara returns to Aspen as often as possible and gives lectures at the high school about traveling abroad, avoiding pressure to use drugs and alcohol, and reaching for goals. She also has worked with the Aspen Skating Club during her return visits.
To say that Joe High is proud of his kids would be an understatement. “I know they’ve worked very hard to get where they’re going,” he said.
Joe had a military background, but he didn’t push his kids in that direction. He served in the Army as a therapist during the Vietnam War. Much of his work was rehabilitation with injured veterans who had “been blown to hell in Vietnam.”
He acknowledged having some parental concerns about Jeremy’s safety, given the current situation in Iraq and possible future conflicts. “He’s going to be in harm’s way at some point in time,” said Joe.
Jeremy, who earned a degree in civil engineering, is willing but not itching to spend time in battle.
“Am I a war-monger? No. Am I a pacifist? No. I came here to serve my country,” he said.
Graduation for Jeremy will be particularly sweet because his grandfather, retired Col. Wilmer Cline, will “pin the rank” on him at the ceremony. His grandfather was an inspiration to Jeremy as a youngster and even more so now. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. He was a pioneer of the modern air force, Jeremy said.
After 60 days leave, Jeremy will head to Fort Benning, Ga., where he will undergo another year of training. From there he hopes to go to airborne school and eventually ranger school.
He will always look back fondly on his days at the academy. He said recent revelations of the rapes of several female cadets at the academy haven’t altered his perspective about the place.
As a fourth-year cadet, Jeremy is a squadron commander, looking after 114 other people. He is confident of the character of those he supervised.
“I am proud of being a cadet,” he said. “I am proud to have served with the people in my squadron. I don’t think it tarnishes us.”
After Tara is finished with one year of internship, she will be “deployable” as a doctor into areas of conflict. The prospect doesn’t phase her.
“I don’t like war so I would rather there not be deployments,” she said. “But I would have been proud to serve” in Iraq.
After her internship, she will have four years of residency. Then she will owe the military seven years of service as a general surgeon.
“It’s a very challenging field,” Tara said. “That’s what makes me click.”
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.