Aaron Tiger Lee decided to join the United States Naval Academy after being inspired by his older brother, Jake Tiger Lee, who is enrolled at West Point. Jake, 21, and Aaron, 18, are both attending the nation’s top federal service academies after graduating from Saipan Southern High School.
“My brother was a big inspiration to me. I saw him when he came back and I saw how he changed as a person and how he carried himself. I admire that trait about him and that’s what made me go to a military institution,” Aaron told Saipan Tribune in an interview.
They described their transition from island life to the federal service as a defining moment.
For Jake Lee, receiving the appointment from Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) was life changing as well. He said, “The academics at West Point were a big surprise. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. There’s just not enough time in the day for everything.”
One of the most enjoyable moments in the academy, he explained, was meeting new people. “Some of the better aspects of it is that I met some of the best people ever. That has been big bonus for me. I’ve made some of the best friends that I can ever imagine,” Jake added.
Although the fast-paced lifestyle and rigorous course load came as a surprise, both of the Lee brothers said that they have fully adjusted as they pursue their intended field of study in the coming months.
Aaron, who graduated a year early from high school, plans to attain his degree in cyber operations, which is coordinated by the National Security Agency, after concluding his freshman year. His older brother, who is entering his junior year, will commit to the finishing his career at West Point and is on track to receiving a degree in business management with a possible minor in counter terrorism.
Aaron offered this advice to the islands’ youth: “Make [your dreams] happen. You can’t just sit back. The speed at which time moves here, it’s really slow here so you can get complacent. Work to make it happen.”
His, brother, Jake, shared a similar message. He said, “The opportunity is there if you seek it out.”
When asked if they’d return to the islands, the Lee brothers said they would, but their future destinations are determined by the Navy and military. Their parents are Chong Nam Lee and Ryoko Chang.
With the excitement surrounding another year at West Point, Jake Lee also takes time to remember his fellow cadet and dear friend Mitchell Winey, who was killed in a military training accident at Fort Hood, Texas in June.
“I really do want to thank him and I’m forever grateful for all he has done for a lot of people. He always had a smile on his face and wanted everyone to be happy. He was a very optimistic guy. I really appreciate him,” Lee said about his friend.
In a previous interview, Delegate Sablan told Saipan Tribune that the CNMI has never had this many students in the academies. He added, “This is a tribute to the hard work and determination of these students and to the support they received from their families and from the educational system in our islands.”