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Headed for Annapolis

Golden Valley alum secures appointment to Naval Academy

Posted: June 10, 2009 10:01 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cameron Dann, 18, displays his acceptance letter to Annapolis Naval Academy and the dog tags and helmet his great grandfather wore as a US Marine while fighting on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II.

 
Cameron Dann never dreamed of joining the Naval Academy during his days at Golden Valley High School.

In less than a month Dann will do just that when he enters the gates of U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md as a Midshipmen.
Dann, 18, of Newhall, isn't the most likely of Naval Academy students.

"I wasn't in the Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). I never gave my family slightest inkling that I even wanted to join the military," he said.

Something inside Dann changed as graduation from Golden Valley high approached in the spring of 2008, he said.

Dann wanted to serve his country. He also knew he didn't want a future full of what he considered blandness, he said.

"I knew I wouldn't go to a regular college and getting a regular 9-to-5 job seemed mundane," he said.

Instead, Dann wanted to do something interesting and challenging: He wanted to be a Navy SEAL.

When Dann told his mother, Linda Dann, about his plans to enlist in the military, her initial reaction was one of shock.

"The emotional side said, ‘My baby's going off to fight,'" she said. "The rational side said, ‘He wants to serve our country. He wants to do something that matters.'"

Military service is nothing new for the Dann family. Cameron's father, Malcolm Dann, served in the British Merchant Marines and his paternal grandfather served in the British Royal Navy.

But the tradition of service goes back even farther.

Cameron wears his maternal great-grandfather's Marine Corps dog tags. That great-grandfather fought in the Pacific theater during World War II, and was part of the infamous battles at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.

Still, those military influences didn't shape Cameron's decision to join the military, Malcolm Dann said.

"I have never emphasized the military," Malcolm Dann said. "This decision to join the Navy has been Cameron's decision alone."

Cameron decided to enlist in the Navy weeks before his graduation from Golden Valley. His impressive scores on the military entrance exam steered Cameron toward the Naval Academy.

"I scored in the 99th percentile," Cameron said. "The recruiter pulled me aside and said I might want to consider the Naval Academy."

Cameron was awed by the idea of attending the Naval Academy. "I thought people who go to the academy spend half their lives trying to get in," he said.

Cameron still wasn't convinced he was Naval Academy material and decided to apply to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. Again, his amazing entrance scores interceded.

"I received a letter stating that I was a candidate for the Naval Academy class of 2013," he said. The Navy's information-sharing program sent Cameron's entrance exam scores to the Naval Academy.

The letter, which he received weeks after applying to the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, started a mad scramble by Cameron.

He needed to gather his transcripts and earn the requisite congressional nomination to gain entrance into the Naval Academy.

With that done, Cameron was accepted to the Naval Academy pending medical clearance.

That's when he hit what he described as the biggest snag in the admissions process.

"I was declared medically ineligible because of allergies," he said.

Cameron uses immunotherapy to overcome allergies. The use of immunotherapy drugs disqualified him from the academy.

But his mother found a military doctor in San Diego who cleared Cameron.

School at the Naval Academy was back on.

Cameron leaves for the academy, and his new life as a Midshipman - or plebe, as first-year students are known at the Naval Academy - on June 30. When Cameron travels to Annapolis, it will be his first trip to the East Coast and his first time away from his family.

"This is a big change for him," Linda Dann said.

The change will require that Cameron leave most of his life behind.

"I was told to come with a pair of shorts, a shirt and very few personal items," Cameron said. "I get to make three phone calls home in the six weeks."

Linda Dann gets emotional about the thought of her son going all the way across the country, but she smiles when she thinks about how far Cameron has come. "I've seen huge growth and I knew he's ready for the challenge," she said.

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