Holland Pratt, Hannah Blakey, Krista Flinkstrom and Veronica Lucian are a sisterhood in scholarship and service. They’re also the future of the U.S. Army.
The West Point cadets were selected to become Rhodes Scholars, breaking the school’s record for the number of women chosen in one year for the prestigious scholarship to study at Oxford. They are also making history as West Point’s first group of scholars to all be women.
“I think women today feel more empowered in the military than they ever have,” Pratt told CBS News. “And that’s the hard work of the legacy of women who have come before us.”
Blakey said it’s “incredibly important” for younger cadets to see four women win the Rhodes Scholarship.
“One of the new cadets came to me … and she said, ‘You know, I come from a place where nobody thought that I could do it.’ And she had a teacher in high school tell her, ‘Girls like you don’t go to places like that.’ And she looked at me and she said, ‘But ma’am, seeing you in this position, seeing you doing a good job makes me believe that I belong here,'” Blakey told CBS News.
As the cadets graduate this weekend, it’s a time for reflection.
When asked what she’s learned about service through her time at West Point, Lucian told CBS News that “I’ve learned that it doesn’t start with you. It starts with those that you’re encountering, and that those personal connections mean more than anything.”
Flinkstrom, who grew up in a military family, said her father integrated his Army experience into her childhood by teaching her about grit and service.
“We would do a lot of things that were pushing you in a mental toughness way,” Flinkstrom told CBS News. “So like, whenever we would do a run together we’d never finish at the end. It would always be longer.”
The lesson she learned: “Service and grit don’t stop at the finish line,” she said.
When asked to define service, Pratt said it’s a mindset and shared a quote from cadet field training: “Eager to serve, willing to lead.”
“Your service and your focus on others comes before anything else,” she said.
Flinkstrom said service is “others-oriented,” and Lucian said it means “love.”
“It’s loving those you encounter,” Lucian added.