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Living life to the fullest

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Siskey loves his job. After all, he asked, where else can you get paid extra money for jumping out of airplanes?

Siskey, the son of Melanie Merritt of Albany, graduated from Deerfield-Windsor in 2005, then accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

While at Deerfield, Siskey helped the Knights win the 2002 GISA AAA state football championship. Even as a sophomore, Deerfield-Windsor Coach Allen Lowe said he saw Siskey's potential.

"Jonathon is a great kid," Lowe said of his former tailback. "He's one of the hardest-working kids I have ever coached. He is diligent, did everything we asked of him and he did it the right way.

"I was happy when he got his appointment to West Point, and I am not surprised by his success. He was a fine leader for our team and I have no doubt he'll also be a fine leader for our country."

Siskey is third generation military. His grandfather, Pete Sharber, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who served 20 years -- including two tours in Vietnam. Sharber began his career as an infantry officer, left the service and returned for a 10-year stint as a chaplin.

Siskey's father served in the Army for two years.

"Jonathon is a really good kid, a solid citizen," Sharber said. "We are all very, very proud of him."

Despite his family's miltary history, during his sophomore year at West Point, Siskey said he seriously considered quitting.

"Consistently, more cadets opt out at the end of their sophomore year than at any other time," Siskey explained. "Life (at West Point) can be very difficult. I began to think why I came in the first place and realized it was for selfish reasons. I wanted a great education and to set myself up for a great future.

"But, in the end, I realized I loved the camaraderie of it all and it's made me understand that our nation has been great because of great leaders. I wanted to be one of those guys."

After graduating from West Point with a degree in system engineering, Siskey, who is an infantry officer, was required to take Ranger training to earn his Ranger tab.

Just recently he was awarded the Ranger's Ralph Puckett Officer Top Honor Graduate Award. It is awarded to the Ranger that shows tactical and administrative leadership positions, peer reports, and may not recycle any of the three phases of 61 days of training.

"A lot of the training surprised me," Siskey said. "We knew it was going to be hard, but it was a shock in how tough it was. I thought I'd be more mentally tough.

"The training really brought us together. There were times if you had a weak moment and were sucking while going up the mountain, and you'd have a couple of buddies grab you and help you up the hill.

"We did that for everybody."

Next week, Siskey will begin Pathfinder School in Fort Campbell, Ky. After that, he's scheduled for an August deployment to Afghanistan.

"Yes, sir, I am nervous, but feel as good about it as possible," Siskey said when asked what he thought about heading into a war zone. "But we've had plenty of guys go over and come back home safely.

"I have the utmost confidence in my ability and training."

His initial reservations about the Army have subsided, and now Siskey has decided to enjoy himself.

"The best thing about the Army is the lifetime friendships I am building here," Siskey said, then laughed and added, "Plus, I get paid to jump out of airplanes and stay in shape. Oh, and the extra jump pay is also nice."

So, what does Siskey plan on doing once his Army career is over?

"One day I think I would like to be a lawyer," he answered. "But, right now, I'm just trying to live one day at a time and life my life to the fullest."

And right now that involves being paid to jump out of airplanes.