NICEVILLE — Hundreds of students, educators and proud parents packed into Niceville High School’s auditorium Tuesday morning to hear the military appointment nominees chosen by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.

“Today is my absolute favorite day to be the congressman from the First Congressional District,” Gaetz said. “It is the coolest part of my job to be able to go and highlight the patriotism and commitment and service of young people who want to express their love of country through work in our military academies.”

Seventeen students were nominated for appointment to four of the five U.S. service academies — U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

The fifth service academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, does not require a congressional nomination for appointment.

Gaetz was able to nominate up to 10 students for each vacant academy slot allotted to school districts. The students had to go through an application process to be nominated by Gaetz.

“On rough days ... when you think that maybe our country is lost that unique element that’s made us special in all of humanity, I go and read the applications and personal statements and biographies,” Gaetz said, “I learn about the extra hours, extracurricular service and leadership challenges that you encounter and the great work that you do here, and it inspires me that the best days of this country are still ahead.”

There were 13 candidates from Okaloosa County, two from Walton County, one from Holmes County and one from Santa Rosa County. The nomination doesn’t mean the students will be accepted to an academy, the congressman said. But his approval does help.

“I think it’s something to receive a nomination from your member of Congress, because the students that receive these nominations today, they’re the ones that stayed after class and did that extra homework,” Gaetz said. “They’re the ones that doubled down on projects. They’re the ones that were the leaders in the organizations that they were involved in. And I think that it is really just one of the greatest things that I get to do to recognize that.”