25 Colleges Where Students Look Good and Think Smart

25 Colleges Where Students Look Good and Think Smart

College and university campuses are filled with students from many diverse cultures and backgrounds. Among those college students there are many who are good looking, and there are many who exhibit intellectual prowess. However, charm and brainpower may not always reside on the same campus with a few rare exceptions.

25 Top Ranked Schools Where Grandeur and Intelligence Combine

Brigham Young University StudentsAccording to data collected by Niche (formerly known as College Prowler), an American company headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, that runs a ranking and review site, Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, the largest religious university in the country, is ranked as the top school where students with both beauty and intellect can be found. Other schools which were ranked include liberal arts colleges, large state universities, and everything in between.

The top 25 schools ranked according to Niche’s data are listed in the table below. Also included are student comments which were taken from the Business Insider article titled “25 Colleges Where Students are both Hot and Smart.”

Ranking Name of School Student Comments
25 University of Wisconsin – Madison “I love my dorm neighbor guys. I have a ton of guy friends and guys I can study with. Smart and cute is a great combination!”
24 Middlebury College “Not only are the people at Middlebury superficially beautiful and fit, but they’re also hard working, brilliant, interesting and engaging individuals who are passionate about something.”
23 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “The people you meet is really up to you. If you’re into Greek people, then you’ll most-likely get upper class, preppy, and sometimes snooty people. If you try to meet others outside of the Greek scene, then you’re most-likely to get a more diverse range of people, which could include people who are nice, geeky, etc.”
22 California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo “I am generally impressed with the individuals I meet on campus. They are smart, outgoing, and easy to get along with. This goes for both guys and girls.”
21 Bucknell University “Brains, Brawns, & Bills – Bucknell boys and girls are generally attractive, fit, intelligent, fun, friendly, and wealthy.”
20 Biola University “Be prepared to think and have more questions than answers. They work you here and you will reevaluate what you believe and why you believe it. This is not a place for indoctrination; this is a place of theological, personal, and intellectual transformation.”
19 Wesleyan University “Sure there are lots of hipsters, but these hipsters do care about stuff. Stuff ranging from just their clothes to (of course) the environment to philosophy and even math. The social life is hoppin’ every night and most people are friendly. There is a certain amount of pretentiousness but it doesn’t get out of hand. Also, important note: there are so many attractive people (male and female on this campus it’s almost overwhelming… almost).”
18 University of California, Los Angeles “The students at UCLA are very diverse, but a majority of the students are very attractive, interested in social events and sports, and also very focused on their studies.”
17 University of California, Santa Barbara “Guys and girls at UCSB have a reputation for being super attractive and smart. There are all kinds of people at UCSB but people tend to dress relaxed and beachy during the day, and casual sexy at night. The culture and location here reflects the way people dress and present themselves.”
16 Wake Forest University “The typical student is the typical overachiever who is completely stressed during the week but then everyone cuts loose on Wake Wednesdays and the weekend which makes up for the high pressure academically. There is a mix of Southern and Northern brands but definitely buy cowboy boots and bring sundresses/buttondowns and ties for tailgates!”
15 Brigham Young University – Idaho “The people are conservative in appearance and nature. The girls always wear clothing that is modest, meaning not much skin showing, but are very attractive. The Norm is to be friendly and helpful with everyone. Generally the interests are related to; the outdoors, church, and laser tag.”
14 Miami University – Oxford, Ohio “Miami, yes, is known for good-looking people, with good reason. Campus guys and girls are generally very attractive and keep themselves up-to-date on the latest trends and fashion. That being said, Miami tends to have a certain stereotype, ‘J.Crew U,’ but it is not uncommon for most students to wear jeans to class.”
13 Yale University “Not only are they hot, they are smart! I am partial to the people at Yale because the impression that I got was that they were much more down to earth and relaxed than people I’ve been introduced to before.”
12 Boston College “People at BC are very attractive and very desirable. They’re often the whole package. However, BC is a hookup school, not a dating school. That can be tough in 4 years when all your high-school friends have long-term relationships from college but you graduated single.”
11 University of Miami – Coral Gables, Florida “Students at Miami are known for being attractive. There are quite a number of students into athletics. However, quite a number of students are also very studious.”
10 Santa Clara University “All the guys and girls at Santa Clara are super attractive. Everyone is friendly, good looking and intelligent. There are always a few exceptions and you do find some weirdos but in general, people are extremely attractive. My friends and I joke its an admission requirement!”
9 University of Southern California “I love USC because there is a variety of people who attend. Everyone is an over-achiever but they can also be a great support system.”
8 Howard University “Howard University, is an HBCU with style, class, personality and diversity. The guys and girls are good looking people, starting with their fashion first. Fashion is a big part of Howard culture meaning that most guys and girls are very fashionable.”
7 Colgate University “The vast majority of people at Colgate are very well put-together and preppy (and also usually really good looking). Students are also pretty well-rounded and like to participate actively in campus life. Students are hard-working when it comes to classes but they also work pretty hard to keep an active social life!”
6 Vanderbilt University “You’ll find a lot of different people at Vandy but the majority of girls and guys are preppy and good-looking. We get a lot of northern people and they definitely bring their style down here. Expect Sperry’s, sundresses, pastel polos, and cowboy boots. Despite the ‘Vandy Girl’ stereotype, girls are smart and the fratty boys are smart too. All are friendly!”
5 Stanford University “There is a HUGE range of people here at Stanford, even more than at most other schools, so unless you’re a recluse and don’t ever get out or do much, you’ll have no trouble finding hotties of every shape, size, talent, hobby, personality, and sexual orientation. Trust me. When I first got into Stanford I was really afraid that everyone here would be a super awkward nerd or a huge snob, but the complete opposite is the case.”
4 Georgetown University “There’s a sporty atmosphere so quite a few students hit the gym often; however, the library is never empty (and the 2nd floor study space’s coffee shop makes it a social hangout). Most social interactions take place through clubs and campus groups (ask any Georgetown student what they’re involved in on-campus and you’ll get a list of at least 4 clubs and/or a sports team). The campus groups are often the ones hosting the parties, but at the same time, they give you a chance to know guys and girls pretty well through daytime activities.”
3 University of Virginia “UVA has a lot of very, very attractive people. It has a reputation for having students that are stuck up, but that’s surprisingly not the case. The fact that people here are ridiculously good looking has not made them jerks. Most people are down to earth and friendly.”
2 Pacific Union College “Because we are such a diverse school, you will find guys and girls from all over the world. This just allows you to go out of your dating comfort zone, you are to open to a ton of new cultures. You are never limited to the kind of people you can date.”
1 Brigham Young University – Provo, Utah “Mormons are attractive. I don’t know why but they are. And smart. Everyone is hot and smart here and it’s crazy! They can come off as a little judgmental, but most of them aren’t, they just seem like it because they’re stereotyped that way.”

Someone has wisely said, “Beauty alone is not impressive. Put an Attitude to be attractive and add Brain to be sophisticated.” This is a statement that is sincerely echoed by the students attending the top 25 schools that have been ranked as having students who are both good looking and intellectual.

Ken Niumatalolo – Putting the Game in Proper Perspective

Ken Niumatalolo – Putting the Game in Proper Perspective

Kenneth Va’a Niumatalolo, an American football coach and former player, was born on 8 May 1965 to Lamala and Simi Niumatalolo in Laie, Honolulu County, Hawaii. He was the fifth of seven children. Both of his parents were born in American Samoa. His father, Simi, retired from the U.S. Coast Guard and later worked in food services at the Polynesian Cultural Center. His mother, Lamala, passed away on Thursday, 5 September 2013.

Niumatalolo was promoted to Head Football Coach at the United States Naval Academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, on 8 December 2007 by Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. He is the second person of Polynesian descent to be named head coach of a NCAA Division I Footbal Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football program and the first Samoan collegiate head coach on any level. He was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame on 23 January 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

From Starting Quarterback to Promising Coaching Career

Niumatalolo graduated from Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1983. During his high school days he exhibited his prowess in athletics by excelling in both basketball and football.

After high school, he attended the University of Hawaii in Manoa where he played college football and eventually became the starting quarterback for the Rainbows (now the Rainbow Warriors) after returning from a two-year full-time Spanish speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Ventura, California, area. During his time with the Rainbows he ran an option-oriented offense under the direction of Paul Johnson, who was then the offensive coordinator, and led the team to their first postseason bowl game in 1989. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Niumatalolo stayed on as a graduate assistant under Coach Johnson, and by 1992, he had been promoted to the full-time assistant position.

United States Naval Academy Football – The Beginning Years

In 1995, Coach Paul Johnson left Hawaii to become the offensive coordinator at Navy and took Niumatalolo with him as his running back coach. The following season, Johnson left the Naval Academy to take a head coaching position at Georgia Southern, and Niumatalolo was elevated to take his position. During his time as offensive coordinator, he tutored quarterback, Chris McCoy, who in 1997, set a Division I-A record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 20 touchdowns. The record would not be broken until a decade later, in 2007, by Florida’s Tim Tebow. On 12 December 2009, at the annual Army-Navy football game, Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs reclaimed the record with  24 touchdowns in the 2009 season.

Niumatalolo left the Naval Academy in 1999 to become an assistant coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for three seasons (1999-2001). While there, he called the plays (2001) and worked with the kickoff return unit. Under his guidance, UNLV ranked sixth in the nation in kickoff returns in 2001 and finished second in 1999.

Return to the Naval Academy and Ready for Action

Ken Niumatalolo Navy Head Football CoachIn 2002, Coach Paul Johnson returned to Navy as the head coach and hired Niumatalolo as his offensive line coach. Niumatalolo soon proved himself when in four of his first five seasons he established a rushing attack that led NCAA Division I-A/FBS in yards per game, which included an unparalleled three consecutive seasons (2004 – 2006) of leading the nation in that category. In 2008, Navy once again led the nation in the number of yards per game with an average of 292.4 yards per game on the ground.

The rushing attack strategy which Niumatalolo had established helped Navy football to realize a level of success that it had not seen in decades. With Johnson as the head coach and Niumatalolo as the offensive line coach, Navy maintained a record of 45-29 and appeared in a bowl game every year from 2003 through 2007, Johnson’s last season in Annapolis. During the same period, the Midshipman won the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s trophy every year.

Coach Johnson left the Naval Academy for Georgia Tech in 2007, and Niumatalolo became the 38th head football coach in Naval Academy history when he was promoted to the position by Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk on 8 December 2007. On 7 January 2009, Niumatalolo was given a contract extension, although the terms and length of the extension have not been released to the public.

With Coach Niumatalolo at the helm, commencing with the 2008 season, the Navy football team has continued their run of success and have been able to accomplish things that have never been done in the 132-year history of the Navy football program. According to his profile on Navy Sports, the official website of Naval Academy athletics:

Niumatalolo’s 49 wins are the most in school history by a coach in his first six years and rank third all-time at Navy, just six wins behind the all-time leader George Welsh.

He led Navy to a 10-win season in 2009, which tied for the most wins in school history, and he is the first coach in program history to lead Navy to a bowl game in each of his first three seasons. He is also the first Service Academy coach to win the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy in his first two years as a head coach.

This past fall, Niumatalolo was selected to the inaugural class of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame and was inducted on January 23 in Honolulu.

Niumatalolo is just the second coach since World War II to lead Navy to a winning record in each of his first three seasons at the helm and joins Eddie Erdelatz and Wayne Hardin as the only Navy coaches to beat Notre Dame in consecutive seasons. He and Paul Johnson are the only coaches in Academy history to start their careers 6-0 against Army.

Navy finished the 2013 campaign with a 9-4 record, won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the ninth time in the last 11 years, qualified for a bowl game for the 10th time in the last 11 years, won a bowl game for just the eighth time in school history (beat Middle Tennessee, 24-6, in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl) and defeated Army for a series-record 12th-consecutive year. The 2013 squad is just the fifth in Navy history to win at least nine games in a season, beat Army and win a bowl game. The 1957, 1978, 2004 and 2009 teams are the only other teams to have achieved that feat.

Texas Bowl, Navy vs. MissouriHighlights of his first season as head coach (2008) include: an upset in Winston-Salem over #16 Wake Forest, 24–17, the Midshipmen’s first victory over a ranked team in 23 years, and a 34–0 shutout victory over Army. Other Highlights of Niumatalolo’s career as head coach at Navy include:

  • Navy has defeated Army every season (six times). The Midshipmen have won 12 straight Army–Navy Games which is the longest winning streak for either Navy or Army.
  • The Midshipmen captured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 2008, 2009 and 2012, with an outright capture of the trophy in 2013 when they defeated the Army football team with a score of 34–7.
  • The Midshipmen have had five winning seasons. They have played in 5 bowl games during Niumatalolo’s tenure, and were victorious in the 2009 Texas bowl and the 2013 Armed Forces Bowl.
  • Navy defeated longtime rival Notre Dame in 2009 and 2010. This was the first time that Navy has defeated Notre Dame since 1963.

For the Love of Family

Coach Niumatalolo and his wife Barbara live in Annapolis, Maryland and have 3 children, a daughter, Alexcia, and sons, Va’a and Ali’i. He and his wife first met at a dance when she was a student at BYU-Hawaii and he was recently returned from his mission in Ventura, California.

Va'a Niumatalolo

His son, Va’a Niumatalolo, is a 2011 graduate of Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland. While there, the 6’1”, 226 pound athlete demonstrated his own sports prowess on the football field by playing the position of Inside Linebacker for the Broadneck Bruins. He is currently a freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he plays the position of Linebacker for the BYU Cougars. Va’a is also an Eagle Scout and served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ in St. George, Utah.


Ali'i Niumatalolo

Ali’i Niumatalolo is currently a junior at Broadneck High School. The 6’2’, 226 pound athlete is also making a name for himself as a Middle Linebacker for the Broadneck Bruins’ varsity football team.


Alexcia NiumataloloAlexcia Niumatalolo, the oldest of the children, was enrolled in the College of Letters and Sciences while attending the University of Maryland. She is also a star athlete in the sport of lacrosse. It is noted that she chose the University of Maryland because she wanted to play for the most prestigious lacrosse team in the country and also because of the excellence of the coaching staff. While at Maryland she played the position of starting defender for the Maryland Terrapins and was recognized as a Division 1 Athlete.

Her father states that she showed an interest in sports at an early age. She did not start playing lacrosse until her freshman year at Broadneck High School, but it was the fundamentals that her extremely competitive father helped develop at home that paved the way for her future success. He further commented:

I didn’t want to push her, but I wanted her to play sports,” Ken said. “Thankfully for her, she enjoyed it. She enjoyed playing basketball and soccer and always wanted a ball in her hands. … She was always very athletic, even at a young age – things kind of came naturally to her.

Alexcia further commented, “He would coach me all the time and set up drills for me. Everything with him was always competition.”

Faith Precedes Football

Coach Niumatalolo is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his family are members of the Broadneck Ward of the Annapolis Maryland Stake.

The day that he was named head coach at Navy, his life and that of his family dramatically changed, in that they went from living in a humble home on the Naval Academy grounds to a more spacious home which was once occupied by some of his predecessors. However, the success that Niumatalolo has been able to achieve has not deterred him from living a life that is based on faith and gospel principles, and it is also that faith and those principles which he uses as the patriarch of his home to help keep his family well grounded.

In 2013, Zach Barnett met with Niumatalolo to ask him a few questions. One of the questions that Barnett asked was, “With your players’ time so much in demand, does that create a longer work day for you or a perhaps a shorter work day?” to which Niumatalolo responded:

My number one title is not the head football coach at the Naval Academy, my number one title is being a husband and a father. I read all the time about guys monitoring their players and stuff and I think that’s fine, making sure they’re going to class and all those things. That’s important. I’ve always thought, if you’re monitoring your players 24 hours a day, who’s monitoring your own family? Who’s watching your own kids? I make sure that we’re not burning the midnight oil here. I feel like we can be efficient in our work hours here. We’re probably more of an early morning staff, guys get here a little bit earlier but I want guys to go home after practice. I want them to go home and see their families. They can do their recruiting stuff at home.

I go to conventions all the time and I hear all these coaches talk about some of the regrets they’ve had in their careers, and these are all great coaches that have accomplished a lot of great things, and a lot of them mention, “I wish I’d spent more time with my family.” I don’t want that regret. I’d rather at the end of the day look yourself in the mirror and be like, “You know what? I was able to be a father and a husband.” And I want my coaches to have that same opportunity. To me, family time is very important. I’ve always taken this approach: if it takes you 24 hours to watch tape and you’ve been in the film room all day, how are your kids going to figure it out in a 45 minute meeting? You’ve just got to make sure it’s not that complicated, try to keep things simple. Don’t get me wrong, we’re working. We work early. I want to make sure our guys are efficient and go home and be a father and a husband.

Missionary work is near and dear to Coach Niumatalolo’s heart and he is often asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he is always ready and willing to answer. However, he does not believe in forcing his beliefs on anyone, especially players.

In a Deseret News article dated 2 September 2011, he commented:

Being the head coach you have a captive audience, but it would not be right for me to push anything besides the principles of teaching and coaching football to my players. They can believe in what they choose. We all have free agency. I try to be an example,” he said. “That is the way I approach things.

He further commented that if an LDS young man were to ask him advice about whether or not he should pray about serving a mission, his response would be:

Why do you need to pray? The Lord has already told you through his servants what you are supposed to do – you are supposed to go. Prepare yourself and when you are 19, you go. Now, if someone is praying to confirm a mission call, that’s different. That’s good. But confirmation about going on a mission, you don’t need to pray. The answer is yes, so prepare yourself. That is how I feel.

Ken Niumatalolo Family at Salt Lake TempleNiumatalolo believes that putting the Lord first and listening to the voice of the Spirit are the real keys to success. He begins each day by reading and studying from the Book of Mormon. In addition to personal scripture study, he also admonishes that devotion to family, church service, and living the gospel have played a major part in his being able to handle the stress and rigors of being a college football coach for almost two decades. As head coach at Navy, he made the surprising decision to cancel all staff meetings on Sundays.

In a Deseret News article dated 28 August 2011, he commented, “For me, growing up as a member of the church, I always knew as long as you are obedient, the Lord will bless you and everything will work out. Gospel principles are universal.”

Ken Niumatalolo will be one of six Latter-day Saints who will be featured in the new feature-length film produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called “Meet the Mormons” which will premiere in select theaters on 10 October 2014.

Mitt and Ann Romney Support ALS Research by Accepting Challenge

Mitt and Ann Romney Support ALS Research by Accepting Challenge

The debilitating disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is perhaps more commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” According to the ALS Association website, it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Many people around the country are helping to raise awareness and raise financial support for research by accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and nominating others to do the same. The persons who are nominated to take the challenge have 24 hours to either accept the challenge or forfeit by making a $100 charitable donation to research. Many people are accepting the challenge, as well as making a charitable donation to support the necessary research.

The activity went viral on social media in mid-2014 as many people to include everyday housewives, school students, teachers, college students, professionals, politicians, athletes, and even well-known celebrities have accepted the challenge. According to The New York Times, between 1 June 2014 and 13 August 2014, people have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since 29 July 2014. Among those who have accepted the challenge are Mitt and Ann Romney. Their videos of accepting the challenge are posted below.

How LDS TV Commercials Change Lives

How LDS TV Commercials Change Lives

The rapid advances in technological innovations affords the media countless resources for reaching and influencing the masses. Perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient venues for capturing a large audience in a short period of time is television commercials.

According to the 2014 Nielsen Advance National TV Household Universe Estimate (UE), there are 115.6 million homes in the United States which own a television, and an estimated 294 million people ages 2 and older who live in those homes. Nielsen also reports that the average American watches 5 hours of television per day. He also notes that children aged 2-11 watch over 24 hours of TV per week, whereas adults 35-49 watch more than 33 hours. As air time for programming is paid through commercial advertisements, it would stand to reason that the average American is exposed to a significant number of television commercials per week.

The Message and Influence of Television Commercials

Every commercial seems to have a purpose and an agenda behind it. Some commercials are designed to entice the viewer to invest in a product that he may buy and only use a few times before it is thrown in a corner or shoved in a closet. Other commercials influence viewers in a negative way by encouraging them to seek for riches and happiness by following the ways of the world. Still, there are others that positively influence the life of viewers, such as the TV commercials produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as “Home Fronts,” as the commercials generally focus on the importance of the family – the foundation of any society, or a selfless act or service.


Introduction to Mormonism and a Changed Life

Mormon FamilyIn a Meridian Magazine article dated Monday, 28 July 2014, Chris Morse shares how watching television commercials created by The Church of Jesus Christ helped introduced him to the gospel and changed his life for the better. He recalls watching the commercials growing up as a kid, and how they always left him with a warm, happy feeling inside. The more he watched, the more he wondered why his own family couldn’t be more like an LDS television commercial. In the article he states,

Now I know why I felt so warm inside while watching those inspired TV messages. It was the Holy Ghost preparing me for the moment when the missionaries would present their message to me about the restored gospel.  I have now been taught the plan of salvation.  I want my children to grow up knowing the truth and their children.  My decision to join the church was a gift to my wife and children and to the generations of families that will follow after us.

He recounts that his testimony began to grow when his family was asked by the missionaries to read the account of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi 8 in the Book of Mormon. In the account is a large and spacious building in which there are people who mock Lehi and point their fingers at those who came and partook of the fruit representing the love of God.

Morse recalls that before his baptism, he was “like the people in the picture pointing their fingers and laughing in scorn because of my lack of knowledge and misunderstandings about the gospel.” After his second son was born, he began investigating different churches before making the decision to invite the missionaries to teach his family the gospel. He further commented,

After reading this story about Lehi in the Book of Mormon, I knew that the book was true and another testament of Jesus Christ. I now know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.  I know that President Monson is a living prophet and that he receives revelation about how to lead the church and its members in our day. I believe that the priesthood has been restored again to the earth.  I am grateful to hold the priesthood.  When my father-in-law blessed me with priesthood authority, I felt it was just as valid and strong as if it were done by the Savior himself.

Mormon Family at the TempleGrowing up, Chris Morse perhaps never realized the powerful, positive influence that watching commercial spots produced by The Church of Jesus Christ would have on his life. However, the messages in those videos helped start him on his journey for truth. He has had wonderful experiences in the Temple as he has participated in vicarious baptisms, and he has experienced the power of prayer and the priesthood as he has ministered to those in need in his ward. He now looks forward to going to the Temple to be sealed to his wife Carmen and their two sons for time and eternity.

Additional Resources:

Mormon TV commercials on family

Mormon TV Commercials (The Best of Homefront II) From the 80’s

Mormon Channel – TV Ads (55)

LDS.org – Homefronts

Deployed Soldiers Remember Their Pioneer Heritage

Deployed Soldiers Remember Their Pioneer Heritage

Pioneer Day, which commemorates Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entering into the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, is an official holiday that is celebrated each year on 24 July in the state of Utah. The early Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley after being forced from their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States. There are celebrations with parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities in Utah as well as other regions of surrounding states which were originally settled by Mormon Pioneers. Most governmental offices and many businesses close in honor of the day of celebration. In addition, some Latter-day Saints walk portions of the Mormon Trail or reenact entering the Salt Lake Valley by handcart.

Remembering Their Pioneer Heritage in Light of Their Service

Airborne and Special Forces in AfghanistanAs many people gathered to participate in the festivities of Pioneer Day this year, there are other Utahns who are currently serving their country in the faraway place of Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, who took some time out from their demanding mission to remember their pioneer heritage and its significance to their devoted and dedicated service to their country. One soldier, Sgt. Mike Smith, stated, “As I think about spending this time of year away from family and home, I realize once more how much I have been blessed. I think of the pioneers, and know that their struggles were far greater than mine have been.” Sgt. Smith, a member of Dakota Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is spending his second Pioneer Day in Afghanistan.

The National Guard unit of which Smith is a part of is based in Draper, Utah. The unit deployed in March for mobilization training on the East Coast, and by early May they had arrived in Kandahar. Many of the soldiers in the unit are fourth and fifth generation Utahns whose ancestors helped settle the state of Utah when it was known as Deseret.

For many of the service members from Utah, Pioneer Day has a special meaning as they reflect upon the faith and sacrifices of the early Mormon pioneers in comparison to the things that they have to endure while away from their families serving in Afghanistan. Smith further commented, “My heart ached for families who lost loved ones and rejoiced for those who made it to the Salt Lake Valley alive.” Another soldier, from Pleasant Grove, on her first deployment, commented that she draws strength from thinking about the Pioneers.

When I’m going through a hard time, I realize that it doesn’t compare to the suffering that (Utah) pioneers experienced. They traveled through really rough conditions, but they kept going,” said Sgt. Chloe Card, broadcast NCO from the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Maj. Choli Ence, the commander of the Utah National Guard’s 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, believes that “the pioneer spirit is about working hard to make a better life.” Her great-grandparents emigrated from Switzerland and were among the original settlers of Ivins, in Utah Washington County. She recalls the stories that she heard while growing up:

You always heard stories — my grandpa, you know, his parents were the founding generation. I’d always hear about how he and his grandfather would farm, about how tough it was. They had a hard time growing things,” she said. “But they persevered and prospered.”

They didn’t have a lot of the luxuries that are available to us now. They were industrious people, and despite all the challenges, they put forth effort to survive, to flourish.

The Pioneer Spirit of the Mission

Smith equated the pioneer toughness to the Warrior Ethos, a code that guides U.S. Army soldiers: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Mormon PioneersThe early pioneers were also on a mission. Their mission was to find the place that God had prepared. With faith in every footstep, they gave their all, some even their lives, to fulfill their mission. Even in spite of sometimes daunting circumstances, they never faltered, but continued to press forward by faith.

Senior Airman Austin Aitken, a North Ogden native who joined the military in January 2012, envisions military life as an opportunity to put the pioneer spirit into action. His first assignment was at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, but a few months after he was married, his unit was deployed to Afghanistan. Comparing the deployment to the pioneer spirit, Aitken commented,

The pioneer spirit is stepping out of your comfort zone,” he said. “It’s going out and doing something that normally you wouldn’t do or others haven’t done but being willing to do it. Not a whole lot of Americans get the opportunity to deploy, especially to a combat zone.

Sgt. First Class Brock Jones of the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment also commented,

It was similar for us in Iraq, in the sense that we lived in austere conditions and had to do hard things. But we just did it,” he said. “The spirit of being a pioneer is having to do something that people haven’t done before, and figuring out how to do it.

Hard work, dedication, and perseverance are not foreign words to these Utah military members. The mission that they are currently serving demands a great deal of their time and complete focus. They are also accustomed to making sacrifices as they leave their families behind to serve the country that they love and to protect its freedoms.


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