Class of 2017 graduates Xavier Garza and Kristina Dzhandzhapanyan have been accepted to attend two of the most prestigious United States military academies. Garza will be attending the Air Force Academy while Dzhandzhapanyan will be attending the US Naval Academy. Their stories are both so different yet one in the same. They may have had different roads to get to where they are, but both have inspired the masses.
Dzhandzhapanyan was always encouraged to read growing up—so much so that she asked her parents for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for her 12th birthday, which she still reads to this day. Kristina was always interested in world news, events, and history, and loved seeing how they played into her own family history. She has seen the many sacrifices her grandparents made to bring her father to this country from Armenia, and they have always told her how great this country is and the blessings that come with it. Because of this, she feels it is her calling and personal duty to help defend those freedoms and serve others for years to come so that they can experience the same blessings. Kristina has always had a heart for all those who have served and are currently serving in the US Armed Forces, but she never felt adequate enough to join them. She always felt too small or too weak to join the service. As Kristina got older, she came to the realization that those traits did not define her. She began to feel the call to join the military, but was still very reluctant due to fear. During her sophomore year of high school, something changed inside of her. After visiting her older sister Natalie, a 2014 Ontario Christian graduate, at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Kristina’s perspective of the academy changed, and she began to feel empowered. She saw firsthand that regardless of who you are–your shape, your form–you can serve your country. She realized that all of her previous doubts, worries, and feelings of inadequacies were all just excuses derived from fear. She saw the perfect opportunity to use her God-given gifts to serve her nation.
Xavier Garza’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He came to the US with only $10 in his pocket and started his own business. His grandfather has since passed away, but the business is still flourishing to this day. His father went on to work just as hard. After not finishing high school and working as a taco man to support his family, both his grandfather and father constantly encouraged Xavier to strive for a better life then they had. This family history inspired Xavier to reach for more than what was expected. At the age of 13, Xavier Garza joined the Sea Cadets, and from then on, he knew he was called to the military. Because the Navy was a huge sponsor of the Sea Cadets, the Navy seemed like the perfect fit for him, and from that point on, he decided that he would become a pilot for the US Navy. He visited the Naval Academy multiple times throughout prior to his acceptance, knowing this was what he wanted to do. Even though Xavier realized that God had called him to the military, God also had been preparing him his whole life for a different branch of military due to a passion for flying. Garza grew up flying planes and was very good at it. He continued to pursue the Naval Academy in hopes of being a pilot for the Navy, but he kept hitting walls. Oddly enough, the Air Force, which was not even on Xavier’s radar, offered him a one-way ticket to the Air Force Academy. After the many closed doors from the Navy and a huge opportunity offered from the Air Force, Garza knew that, though he may have desired to attend the Navy Academy, God was calling him to the Air Force. After accepting the Air Force Academy’s offer, he quickly discovered there are more opportunities to fly than originally expected, and he knew that God was already working. Xavier will be the first of his family to ever attend college, and he believes this decision to attend the Air Force Academy is “changing what it means to be a Garza.”
The road to the academy for both Xavier and Kristina was not easy; it was a long process. Those desiring to join the military academy must fill out a general application, go through a background screening process, attend preliminary summer seminars, athletic testing, a medical examination, and have multiple interviews. After that long process, those accepted must also receive a Congressional nomination from either a state senator, Congressman, the vice-president or president. Those accepted can also receive a Principal Nomination instead, which is a direct acceptance to the academy. This type of nomination is rarely ever given out, but because of Xavier’s outstanding experience and background, he was given this Nomination by Congresswoman Norma Torres. Kristina received both a senatorial nomination from Barbara Boxer and Congressional nomination from United States House Representative Ed Royce for California’s 39th Congressional district.
Kristina’s advice to anyone who desires to pursue the academy would be to “Be proactive.Be aware of everything that’s coming up, dates, deadlines, know all of that. And prepare yourself a lot.” “Strap in and hold on,” Xavier says, “Where you come from doesn’t define who you can be. You can come from anywhere and still make it.” They both believe that the military academy is not for the faint of heart. Xavier also stated that, “If your parents make you do it, then it’s not gonna work. You can’t be a hostage.” This has to be a calling, a calling that both Xavier and Kristina believe has been put on their hearts by God.
Xavier will be attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and hopes to fly F-18s for the Navy and dreams of getting to space one day. Kristina will be playing soccer for the Navy and plans to minor in Mandarin or Russian; she hopes to one day be a foreign ambassador for the United States so that she can be a Godly influence in the United States’ relationships with foreign nations.