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Sierra High grad Matt Rogers’ dream taking flight

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Sierra High grad Matt Rogers’ dream taking flight

Annapolis Academy graduate Matt Rogers, in flight uniform and standing in front of his airplane, is off to flight school in Pensacola, Florida.

Photo contributed/

POSTED June 29, 2012 1:41 a.m.

Matt Rogers was still a couple of years shy of reaching the first decade of his life when he had his epiphany at a Blue Angels air show in Stockton.

He was going to be a pilot someday – and not just any aviator but a Blue Angel.

A decade and four years later, the 2008 Sierra High School graduate is on his way to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where he will start his training that he hopes will ultimately take him to his long-dreamed rendezvous with destiny.

The Pensacola military flight school is the next leg of his journey toward the fulfillment of his boyhood dream. Less than a month ago, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the prestigious United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Before he even stepped foot inside the hallowed grounds of the storied military institution, Rogers had already left his mark in his high school alma mater’s history. He was the first of the Timberwolves to be accepted into the naval academy.

To be considered for acceptance at Annapolis, prospective candidates have to be nominated by their congressman, senator or the vice president of the United States. He was nominated by Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) during his high school senior year. But that was simply to get his foot in the door. He had to vie with 13 other eager candidates for the only two cadet spaces that were available in the congressman’s area. Not only did Rogers get accepted; he got the first spot. He was also the only one from Manteca accepted that year to attend Annapolis for a four-year, full-ride military scholarship.

He is actually scheduled to leave for flight school in Florida the end of July. After a couple of weeks in Manteca visiting his parents, Sue and Tom Rogers and brother Brandon who is a sophomore at Sierra High, and following his graduation and a vacation cruise with the entire family, Rogers headed back this past weekend to Annapolis where he is scheduled to be on “temporary duty” – a “do-nothing job,” as he amusingly called it, before taking the official move to flight school. He expects to get his wings in August of 2014.

He also plans to take a master’s degree but was not sure whether he will do that while in the military.

Rogers has a lot of good memories during his four years at the academy.

“I liked it. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was challenging at times,” he said.

Annapolis was not your typical college, and in some ways  it was like high school in that there were no night classes and cadets don’t get to choose their class schedules like that of a “normal college,” noted Rogers. In the military academy, one’s study time is highly regimented, he said.

“If you didn’t go to class, you’d be in trouble,” he added.

But there were plenty of after-school extracurricular activities at the academy to get involved in, he said. In fact, he was in several of these groups. He belonged to a private flying club for aviation enthusiasts. He also joined a rock-climbing and scuba-diving club, and even got involved in ballroom dancing.

Rogers is still not sure whether he is going to pursue a military career. But as it stands right now, he has to pay back in service his all expenses-paid military education. That means he has to put in 10 years of service before he can get out of the military, if he wishes to. More if he decides to take extra schooling as a pilot. And he may do just that, “as long as they’re paying me to fly,” said Rogers who is looking forward to flying fighter jets.

“I already knew I wanted to be in the academy and flying in the military since I was eight years old,” said the former Sierra High JROTC company commander.

“I was at the Stockton Air Show working with the Cub Scouts when I got to meet some of the Blue Angels,” he recalled.

One of them was George Dom, the number one of the Blue Angels group that flew at the air show. Rogers was so impressed with the group and actually meeting in person the senior flier that he kept talking about becoming a Blue Angel someday, Sue Rogers said. Since kids are prone to talking about harboring such dreams after meeting someone who is that accomplished and influential, “We didn’t give it much thought,” said Sue Rogers who is, herself, an Air Force veteran. Husband Tom works for Chevron in the Bay Area.

“But when he got older, he kept talking about going to the naval academy. It was his dream, and he actually gets to do it. We’re amazed. We’re so proud of him. We’re excited for him,” said the proud mother.

And the upcoming military flight student may yet get to meet his childhood idol sometime soon. His mother took it upon herself to look up George Dom online. After she found out where to contact him, she wrote him a letter to let him know how he influenced her son to becoming a pilot in the military. As a result, the Blue Angel who now has his own company and is retired from the military was able to connect with Matt Rogers via phone.

At the time that Sue Rogers was searching online for Blue Angel George Dom, her son happened to be visiting family in Manteca. During that visit, the midshipman was invited by his former Sierra High JROTC instructor, Lt. Col. (ret.) Venjie Gose, to give a talk about life in the naval academy to his class at Lathrop High. One of the high school cadets who listened to Matt Rogers’ talk was Ross Downum who was a sophomore at the time. Two years later, Downum was nominated by Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Ceres) to both West Point Military Academy and the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Downum chose West Point. But during an interview with the Manteca Bulletin about his nomination to the two military academies, the recently graduated Spartan senior who comes from a long line of law-enforcement officers in his family, said that it was Matt Rogers’ talk which inspired and influenced him to pursue a career in the military.

Flight school, though, is not the only thing that Rogers is looking forward to with excitement next year. Right after graduating from the academy, when the family was on a cruise, he proposed to his high school sweetheart, Chelsea Deerinck, who also graduated from Sierra High in 2009. She is in her last year at California State University, Stanislaus where she is majoring in kinesiology with plans to pursue a career in physical therapy or sports medicine. They have yet to set a wedding date, but it will be “around this time next year,” Matt Rogers happily announced.

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