Ft. Wright Native Meets President Trump in Graduation from Air Force Academy
Thomas Xavier Hiltz enjoyed quite a commencement speaker when he graduated from the Air Force Academy on May 30.
The Ft. Wright native got to shake hands with President Donald Trump, too, after the president's speech.
In four years at the academy, Hiltz earned a spot on the dean's list for all eight semesters.
The day was also special in another way as Hiltz graduated with his fiancee, Maddie, whom he married the following weekend.
"We had the President, who gave a very inspiring speech," Hiltz said. "You could tell he appreciates his subordinates. He stood there for two hours until he shook hands with every one of us. When I shook his hand, I said,It's an honor to serve you, and he said, No, it is an honor to serve you! I thought that was really cool."
His most favorite moment was when the commander said the class was dismissed, and they all threw their caps in the air at the exact time the Thunderbirds flew over the assembly at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs.
And if that wasn't enough of a high for Hiltz and his family, the very next weekend he and Maddie got married.
"It has been surreal," Hiltz said with a laugh.
Thomas Hiltz is the third of four children born to Paul and Kristen Hiltz in Ft Wright. Thomas's older sister went to Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, and then enlisted in the Air Force. His older brother enlisted in the Army straight out of high school.
This made a huge impression on Thomas. He was ten when his brother enlisted.
"I was impressed with his selflessness, and his willingness to serve his country," Hiltz said. "I had a picture of my brother in his uniform in my locker when I went to Covington Catholic. Even now I have my brother and sister's picture on my wall in their uniforms. It is all about family when it comes to inspiration for me."
On the advice of both his brother and sister, Hiltz set his sights on going to an academy, because both siblings said the best way to join the service was to start out at an academy. But any academy is difficult to get into. The Air Force Academy only accepts approximately ten percent of its applicants.
Paul Hiltz said the family went to Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie to ask him to nominate Thomas. There, he had to go through an application process and then be interviewed by the board that Massie has set up. When he completed those requirements, he won the nomination from Massie.
"That was hard, but it turned out to be easier than trying to be accepted into the Academy," Hiltz said. "But I made it."
Hiltz has decided on logistics as his field, and his wife, Maddie, is in intelligence. They have both been assigned to Tucson, Arizona, which is a blessing for a beginning marriage.
Hiltz said that he didn't join the Air Force specifically to fly, but rather to learn to become a commander. He is currently a second lieutenant.
He believes that his chances of being deployed overseas as "very high" or "very likely", particularly in the next two years.
Though Hiltz is still flying high from two major events in his life, he has thought about where his future lies.
"I am excited to take all this preparation from the last four years, and put it into action," he said. "I want to start doing something with my education. I am also excited to have a family. I want to enjoy a stable life.
"But basically, I am read for whatever life throws at me."
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor