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The Night Before May 28, 2010

Posted by midswatch in Home, Navy, Writing.
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Ninety-nine days down. One to go. Memory 100/100:

I remember the night before Induction Day.

My family moved from Oregon to Annapolis a few days before I-Day. My dad got a job working out of Beltsville, Maryland before I received my appointment to the academy (I make sure to tell this so people don’t think my parents followed me to Annapolis.) So the house was extremely bare.

I had a terrible feeling in my stomach—I wasn’t excited or anxious—I simply felt sick. It was that feeling you get when you think you are going to cry, but dull—and I didn’t cry.

I watched Full Metal Jacket to pump me up a bit for Plebe Summer. Remember how I didn’t yet grasp what it meant to JOIN THE NAVY?

I picked out the CD we would listen to in the car on the way to the stadium. I wanted Coldplay’s “Yellow” to be the last song I heard.

The whole evening felt much like a last rights ceremony. I was waaaaaay too sensitive.

Mike was a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, so he spent the night with us. I felt a special bond with him, not just because he’s my brother, but because he was a soldier. He knew what I’d face.

He was also a major contributor to me joining the military. I remember when he told my parents that he was joining the Army, he said that he wanted to make a difference for people. At that point, all I wanted to do was become a professional musician in a symphony. When he explained his motivation, I knew that I wanted the same.

The movers hadn’t brought our stuff yet, so I didn’t have a bed. Mike and I each had an air mattress in the den. I barely slept the entire night.

Tonight seems similar. Everyone is in bed now. We have so many family members in the house, my room and downstairs area was converted into a makeshift living room/play area/ sleeping room for Dan’s family. I sleep on the floor or couch—it works out well because I have been going to bed late and getting up before the rest of the family.

It has been a very formative four years. I cannot imagine what I would be like had I chosen a different path.

I just sat for a moment and tried to figure out something important to say to wrap the four years up. I can’t do it too well. I wish I could make an insightful comment. What seems to stand out to me is the importance of always moving forward, devotion to honor and self-improvement, courage, and striving for high quality living.

It has been a pleasure to write on this blog. Thank you for visiting.

Mom and Dad: you’re the best.

Go Navy.

Don’t give up the ship.

Blue Angels May 26, 2010

Posted by midswatch in Home, Navy, Special Events.
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Ninety-eight days down. Two to go. Memory 99/100:

My favorite event of the year. The one that rumbles the roads, closes the highway, and shocks a city. The Blue Angels!

People pour into Annapolis, starting in the morning, in anticipation for the event. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I’ll recall my first exposure.

I was in my room, barely a Plebe No More, (post-Herndon,) cleaning my stuff (because Gunny was going through for an inspection,) and I heard a roar cut through the air. I ran to the window, and I saw the beautiful blue streak of the F-18 Hornet skim over Bancroft. I was standing on the top floor, so I the pilot’s head was at eye level. It was the day before the official Blue Angel’s performance—a yearly tradition in the excitement of commissioning week. I hadn’t expected this treat. The flying wonders glued me to my window for the following two hours as they practiced their maneuvers.

Today I was able to enjoy the show with many of my family. We had eighteen people total! We sat on the field inside of Ingram Track. I smiled for most of the time, and I couldn’t help but laugh as the little kids screamed and covered their ears each time the planes were especially loud. Although I think little Cami enjoyed the noise at times.

I never see the Yard as packed full of people throughout the year as it is during the Blue Angels show. If you ever get a chance to see them, I highly recommend it. They have about an hour routine, where they do dazzling aerobatics, sometimes while being as close as eighteen inches to each other. Nothing motivates me like the speed, noise, and power of those great machines. They zoom past at 500 mph, then split into the sky, disappearing out of sight. It’s truly inspiring.

Go Navy!

Meet Gunny May 25, 2010

Posted by midswatch in Home, Writing.
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Ninety-seven days down. Three to go. Memory 98/100:

Each company is run by a commissioned officer (generally a lieutenant or a Marine Corps captain,) and a senior enlisted leader. They are the authority of the company, in charge of the midshipman leadership.

I didn’t know this on Induction Day. The first thing they told me was “every sentence begins with sir or ma’am, and every sentence ends with sir or ma’am.” So I figured it was my job to never mess that up. I was a punctual, precise, and persistent sir yeller.

I made it through the whole doggone day without messing it up. Then during our thirty minutes of personal time, I had to go to the bathroom really badly. I ventured out by myself (super scared,) and for whatever reason, I ended up going too far. I wandered into no-man’s land: the main P-way.

I greeted all of the detailers with a sharp sir or ma’am sandwich. They didn’t give me any trouble. Then I greeted another one, except he was wearing a red shirt.

“Sir, good evening, sir.”

“Do I look like a sir to you?!” He was insta-angry. My hands insta-shook.

“Sir, n-n-n-no….sir?” I didn’t know what to do.

He stood close, and he crossed his arms so I could see the muscles bulge. The detailer standing next to him gave me a look of disgust and questioned my intelligence, “Don’t know anything, huh?”

I probably would have fainted right there if it wasn’t for Cody. He was strolling by for whatever reason. “Good evening, Gunnery Sergeant!” They let him pass. I quickly caught on.

“Gunnery Sergeant, good evening, Gunnery Sergeant!”

He was our company’s senior enlisted leader. I didn’t know what a Gunnery Sergeant was, but I soon found out. I studied the enlisted ranks of the Marine Corps that night in bed, out of my Reef Points. Throughout my time as a plebe, I would come to greatly fear my Gunnery Sergeant but gain a great respect for him. I have had three Gunnery Sergeants pass through my company during my time, and they have always been outstanding to work with and for.

Parades May 24, 2010

Posted by midswatch in Home, Special Events.
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Ninety-six days down. Four to go. Memory 97/100:

We have a practice parade tomorrow at 0700. Since I don’t live on the Yard anymore, I have to drive in—like a real person—early. I have many memories about parades, but nothing particularly exciting has happened that I recall. If you don’t know, parades for the Naval Academy are not like parades on TV during major holidays. We march, with rifles and swords, from T-Court to Worden Field. We have a few ceremonial exhibitions, some songs, and then we march off. Sometimes we have special dignitaries visiting as the reviewing party. It’s a special moment when you get to salute the Secretary of Defense.

It’s not uncommon for a mid to pass out during a parade, especially during commissioning week festivities (late parties the night before combined with standing at attention for an hour is a potent mix.) We used to fix bayonets on our rifles, but I think the passing out problem caused safety issues.

I remember one time last year as one of the company commanders (who stand out in front,) from a different company, was on the verge of passing out. While standing at attention, we all watched, making little “ooh”s and “ah”s, anticipating the face-plant in the grass. She didn’t fall, but she did hand her sword to the executive officer and take a knee. I could hear a significant mumble of disappointment throughout the immediate area.

I also remember how at most parade practices, the mids aren’t in great moods, so they generally mope around for the first few minutes. The Drill Master, a Gunnery Sergeant, fixes that right up with forty push-ups, at his cadence, for the entire brigade. It comes in fast—one minute you’re standing there with your rifle, the next you hear, “OK, seems to me like you need a little motivation. ON YOUR FACES!”

It’s an old tradition that the Firsties leave their shoes on the parade field at their final parade. It’s a tradition that has been mostly destroyed, but there are still remnants of it. It has yet to be determined how it will play out this year.

March On May 23, 2010

Posted by midswatch in Home, Special Events, Sports, Writing.
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Ninety-five days down. Five to go. Memory 96/100:

I remember “marching on” to football games. Before each home game, the brigade forms up in T-Court, and we march from there to the stadium. Along the route, people stand by the road and throw candy at the midshipmen. It’s a fun event. When I was a plebe, it was a very relaxed environment. The mids were able to interact with the spectators, catch the candy, and all that fun stuff. The next year, we weren’t allowed to catch the candy. It was sad to watch as we stomped over candy that little kids would throw for us. Over the last two years, the standards relaxed significantly, and we were at least allowed to catch the candy, (but we weren’t supposed to pick it up off of the ground.)

The night before the games, plebes would do “spirit missions,” and they’d post signs along the route, such as “10th Company says CRUSH Rutgers!”

Most mids feel a little bit of cynicism toward marching on, simply because it’s usually hot and uncomfortable. I tended to agree most of the time, but I always enjoyed once we made it to the stadium. The brigade lined up on the field, and the stadium was usually close to filled. We’d tip our hats to the visiting team “D-U-K-E! Gooooooo Duke! Fight.”

After that we’d turn around to face the home team. At that point, the crowd stands up and cheers loudly. We yell back, “N-A-V-Y! Goooo NAVY! Fight!” Then we rush to the stands, and the game starts shortly after (F-18 fly overs were always a special treat.)

It was a great way to start a day of victory, if we won. If we lost, it was a long walk to a painful defeat.