Soaring to Success



Before he became a Lieutenant Army Aviator piloting a UH-60 M Black Hawk helicopter, John Walsh sought out other challenges.

“He likes a challenge, and to go from one to the next,” said John’s mother, Lucy Walsh.


Their small tight-knit family always did things together while he was growing
up, said Lucy. John’s compassion, communication skills, and easy-going demeanor coincide with a strong sense of civic duty and a determined work ethic.

While he was a junior in high school, his father, James Walsh, a dentist at Saratoga Springs Family Dentistry, encouraged John to volunteer at Saratoga Hospital where he met someone who would change his life.

John had been the captain of the football, basketball, and baseball teams while attending Saratoga Central Catholic School.

After speaking with a graduate of the United States Military Academy (also known as 

West Point) however, John decided to focus more on academics and improving his SAT test scores. He was given a congressional recommendation from Chris Gibson and went to West Point after graduating from Spa Catholic in 2012.

“We let him make decisions on his own, and live by them,” said Lucy.


“This is one of the hardest places in the whole US that I could go,” said John. He graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2016. Then he went on to United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Fort Rucker, Alabama where his performance earned him the Distinguished Graduate Award this past October.

“I didn’t hear a lot of his speech because I was so nervous for him,” said Lucy. It was one of only two times she’d felt fear for her son. The other was when he was just learning how to fly.

“My fear was that he’d get there and not like flying. I thought, What if he’s gone this far and hates flying? But his instructors said he was a natural at it,” she said. 


Learning to fly a helicopter was the hardest thing John had ever done.

“People think it’s intuitive, like driving a car, but it’s not. It’s a skill set that people haven’t ever experienced. It’s an overwhelming experience. You can’t just get in a helicopter and fly it. Flight training is a long, exhaustive process. People don’t realize how difficult it truly is to fly a helicopter,” said John.

The precise movements required to confidently handle the controls was something John struggled with. He stayed focused on his end goal -of transporting troops, cargo, and equipment however, and with time, excelled.

“The thing that drove me most to aviation was the challenge – it was an exhilarating concept,” he said.

His perseverance paid off.

“I think every flight is truly inspirational. Each flight is amazing in itself,” said John. SS

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