Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prior Nostalgia...

During Beast, I wrote home a few times. One letter, I remember particularly, because at the time, I wasn't feeling totally sure I wanted to stay at the Academy when I had woken that morning. I lived, at the time, in MacArthur Barracks overlooking Mac Statue and the Superintendent's house, Quarters 101. The statue has around its base quotes from MacArthur's farewell speech to the Corps. I remember, as hard as this is both for me to admit and for most to believe, being humbled at that moment that I was wearing the same uniform he had worn and was attempting to accomplish something I had never imagined. (For those of you who knew me ten years ago, when I was a Junior at Fallbrook High School, graduation from college seemed unattainable enough, but West Point, a military college, was not just unattainable, but completely out of character.) Yet, there I was, in my white over grey, looking at his statue in disbelief and deciding to continue on.

The intervening years have been difficult on so many levels, with family problems, personal problems, a lack of academic prowess (and dedication, to be fair), less than stellar physical performance and an overall poor attitude from me. I can't even begin to count the number of times I wanted to quit, and nearly did right before my junior year.

And yet, in 83 days, I am going to graduate.

I was watching The Contender today for my politics in film class. At the end, the President shakes hands with his Chief of Staff and grasps his shoulder. The President was a West Point graduate and his ring is displayed prominently throughout the film. In the final scene, you recognize that the Chief of Staff was also a graduate. It is like a wink at anyone in the audience who was a cadet also, and I caught it.

While the movie President was fictional, it made me realize how many great men and women have graduated before me. How many of them aren't even known by society, weren't Presidents or CEO's, but whom I've met over my four years. Two in particular stick out, from the class of 1955 I believe. They met me at a banquet in DC I was attending and told me about their experience. They had been roomates at the Academy and then fought in Vietnam. One was wounded and went on to Law School to become a judge, the other stayed in the military and eventually became a General Officer. They told me about their alumni review durring Graduation week when their fifty year cohort class had stood across from them and marched, from the class of 1905. One of them began to cry, and he shook my hand and walked away.

I think there are very few people who know what my graduation has cost me and how much I've had to sacrifice to earn my diploma. I think even fewer have known me long enough to know how unlikely my graduation really is. I wake up every day, still, and wonder exactly how I got to where I am, and how it is possible that someone like myself will actually leave this place a part of the Long Grey Line, but it is going to happen...and for that, I can't be anything but grateful.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you. (*winks*) Please invite me to your graduation even though I'll be on my year-long field trip...

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's difficult for me to read this, still, after nearly 2 years have passed since I left. I think every person that has gone to west point, whether it was for 1 day or 47 months, feels that sense of awe... am I dreaming? Am I really a cadet at west point? It was almost like a movie for me. I remember being made fun of during beast when I'd say, "I'm glad it's raining... this road march will feel like a movie!" Yet, the whole experience is unbelievable.

Looking down the road, and imagining myself standing there at my 50 year reunion... yeah that would be an amazing feeling... yet I still don't want it. Sometimes I wish I did but I would be denying myself and my dreams. I suppose in the end, everyone needs their own long gray line... I hope ours meet up again... miss ya, Adam...

5:18 PM  

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