Jeff Keitel knew during his early teen years what he wanted to do with his life.
“Not many kids start thinking about college in the seventh grade,” said the recent Effingham High School graduate.
But Keitel, the son of Kal and Renee Keitel, didn’t want to attend just any college. He set his sights early on following in brother Tim’s footsteps and attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Keitel said his older brother, now a first lieutenant in the Air Force, served as an inspiration.
“I was inspired by the success that I saw,” he said.
Keitel was accepted into the Air Force Academy earlier this year despite the reduced number of available slots caused by federal budget cuts. He leaves Effingham with a long list of accomplishments, including being valedictorian of his senior class, a three-sport athlete (cross country, wrestling, tennis), saxophone player in the EHS marching and jazz bands, class officer, student council member, National Honor Society member and Illinois State Scholar.
Keitel also works part time at Niemerg’s Steak House, as well as at Kluthe Memorial Pool.
Keitel said he has a number of reasons for wanting to serve in the Air Force.
“I would like to fly the glider planes, learn how to parachute and travel the world,” he said. “But I also see a different perspective — a greater calling for what I am doing.”
Keitel’s mother, Renee, said she tried to prepare young Jeff early on for what he would need to get accepted into the academy.
“Jeff has always gotten good grades, but we let him know that wouldn’t be enough,” Mrs. Keitel said. “When Jeff first expressed an interest in the academy, my only comment to him was that he needed to think about what he was doing now and not wait until his junior or senior years of high school.
“We told him he has to excel in everything he does,” she said.
“And keep his nose clean,” added dad Kal.
Keitel leaves June 27 for Colorado Springs and six weeks of basic training, including three weeks on campus and three more weeks of military training. When that training is complete, it will be time for classes to start.
“We won’t see him until Thanksgiving,” Kal said.
Keitel said he’s both happy and apprehensive about the path he has chosen.
“I’m happy because I am getting this opportunity,” he said. “But I’m freaked out because I don’t know what I am getting into.”
Jeff may not be the last Keitel to attend a service academy, according to Mrs. Keitel.
“Zach (age 13) is already talking about going into the Air Force Academy,” she said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or email@example.com.