Coby Backward used some of his Thanksgiving leave to spread the word about — and encourage enrollment in — the United States Naval Academy.

Backward said, "Not a lot of people know about the academy."

His goal was to make students, particularly freshmen and sophomores, more aware.

"It's the freshman and sophomore years that it's important to at least start gearing your pathway through high school in order to point towards the academy — focusing on your grades, ACT scores, involvement and leadership opportunities," he said.

Backward said he knew in middle school that he wanted to join the military. As he got older, he started focusing on his grades and academic pursuits.

"I knew I wanted to get my education paid for," he said. "I started looking at different pathways and did my research. The Naval Academy came up and I knew that was the right path for me."

Since enrolling, Backward said he's run into a few misconceptions about the academy.

"A lot of people make comments asking me about deployment, not realizing that the Naval Academy is actually a school," he said. "And people think it's strictly Navy, but you can also commission into the Marine Corps. I chose it for that route."

The USNA site says: "As the undergraduate college of our country’s naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Naval Academy students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy. They attend the academy for four years, graduating with bachelor of science degrees and commissions as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates serve at least five years in the Navy or Marine Corps."

The USNA's mission is to "develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and

character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”

What is now known as the USNA was established in 1850.

According to USNA, notable graduates include: one president (James E. "Jimmy" Carter), three cabinet members, 24 members of congress, five state governors, five secretaries of the Navy, 29 chiefs of Naval Operations, two Nobel Prize Winners, 73 Medal of Honor recipients, 54 astronauts and 49 Rhodes Scholars.

For more information about the United States Naval Academy, visit