WEST POINT, NY (CBSNewYork / AP) – One graduating U.S. Army cadet from New York City is paving his own path.

When Michael Nilsen told his parents he wanted to go to West Point, they were less than thrilled.

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“My mom cried,” he says.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell At West Point

His friends home in Brooklyn still don’t get it.

“They think I’m crazy. They think I’m a lunatic. They think I am absolutely insane,” he says.

But he’s convinced this is right.

“So, you have a calling sometimes and not everything is completely rational. This may be slightly irrational for me, but it’s completely logical in my mind,” he tells WCBS 880 reporter Peter Haskell.

Mike Chiaia of Brooklyn | Tom Anderson of Poughkeepsie

“I’ve wanted to be a leader for a long time and I feel West Point was the best place to get me that leadership training, help me out. This is my passion. It’s like breathing for me,” Nilsen said.

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It was during religion class in his sophomore year of high school that Nilsen realized he wanted to help and protect people.

“The best way I could do that is by being an officer in the United States Army,” he said.

Nilsen expects to be in Afghanistan in a year and a half.

First lady Michelle Obama is addressing West Point cadets on the eve of their graduation.

Obama is making her first visit to the U.S. Military Academy to speak Friday night at a banquet for the class of 2011. She will address more than 1,000 graduates and their families at the academy’s castle-like mess hall.

The White House says Mrs. Obama’s visit to West Point and another on June 3 to Quantico Middle High School on the Marine Corps Base in Virginia underscores her commitment to the military.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen will be the graduation speaker at West Point’s commencement on May 21.

More than 1,000 cadets are expected to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy and be commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

Mullen, a Navy admiral, has served as the chairman since 2007. He’s scheduled to retire at the end of September.

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