It all started when I visited my uncle in the D.C. area when we were bored one summer afternoon with no place to go. No, it REALLY started when my uncle put on Top Gun for the first time in his apartment when I was 8 years old. After watching the opening scene of F-14’s flying off of an aircraft carrier, sailors running all over the deck, and Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins blaring in the background, my eyes remained glued to the screen for the remainder of the film. Immediately, I had fallen in love with the speed and adrenaline rush. As the movie progressed, I began to appreciate the comradery and badassery of the pilots, associating those qualities with the entire military. I wanted in, but little did my 8 year old self know at the time, the military is by no means simply joyriding around in million dollar government aircraft or being a student at the most elite pilot course. While an 8-year-old cannot truly comprehend the magnitude of what the military as an organization does, or how it operates routinely or even broadly, I will give credit to the movie for opening my eyes to the possibility. My passion for aviation also stemmed from the movie and would later lead to my pursuit of a private pilots license in high school.
Back to the beginning. One afternoon when I had just finished freshman year of high school and was visiting my uncle again in DC, we were bored and could not find anything to do. I had seen all the tourists attractions since I had visited the area a few times before and we thought we were SOL. As we were watching some boring cartoon, my uncle in passing had mentioned that we could tour the Naval Academy. Honestly, I had heard of West Point although I didn’t quite fully understand what it was and I was intrigued that the Navy had an institution as well. I blame self-ignorance somewhat for not knowing that these institutions existed; however, during my upbringing I was not really exposed to the military whatsoever, given that I have not had a family member serve. I would say that New York City also does not really perpetuate or even maintain a military culture at all (could be more dissected more but my point is that compared to other regions in the country, military is not really considered as a post-high school path). After mustering up the energy to get off the couch, we got in the car and headed for Annapolis.
Once we arrived, I felt slightly intimidated by some men and women wearing uniforms and holding rifles at the gate. Not a sight I was used to seeing. As we began to walk around the campus, seeing and taking in its beautiful architecture and history, I saw a few midshipmen walking across the street. Their uniforms looked sharp and they were all smiling and enjoying themselves. Their happiness didn’t look typical for lack of better words. It sincerely looked like they had a different type of comradery and seemed more like a family then just college classmates. While we wrapped up the tour, I concluded in my head that I loved the cleanliness, order, and discipline the school offered along with the different type of friendship/teamwork that comes with it. I had never really thought about the different ways to join the military, nor was I really educated on them, but I had always had a desire in the back of my head to give back. I remember having a moment of clarity, deciding that this was the route I definitely wanted to take if I were so blessed to get the opportunity.
After that day, I began researching the necessary prerequisites for applying to a military academy and knew that at the time, I was definitely not ready. I had researched the Air Force Academy, and as a I read more and more about it, I felt as though I would be a better fit there than the Naval Academy. Regardless, I knew I was far off the mark academically and physically to even have a fighting chance during the application process. I was stressed to admit that I would have to work extremely hard the next two years but I knew that if I really wanted the chance, I would have to prove it.
My father had told me that he wanted to apply when he was a young teen, but that his guidance counselor had told him:
“ If you want to fly, go to regular college, make a lot of money and take flying lessons”
That had convinced him. This is important to this part of the story because while he didn’t end up applying, he still had supported my desire throughout the entirety of the process. On the flip side, my mother, was not. Just like I was, prior to obsessively reading and watching videos about the military academies online because I really wanted in, my parents were not as educated on the subject. Again, people (specifically that I know) typically know that West Point exists, but not entirely what its purpose is as well as the fact that the other branches of the military also have such institutions. My mother, who is not a native of the U.S. was born in a country that does not have a standing military. She struggled to comprehend why I wanted to serve and not take the typical route. While I feel as though it is hard for most people to fully understand the inherent desire to serve unless you have experienced for yourself, it was painful to truly desire something that my mom strongly did not want for me. That being said, I understood her fears and she was concerned solely for my safety. I knew at heart it wasn’t because she just didn’t like the idea of me going to such a place which I thought was the case at the time.
For months, and I mean months, my parents would argue constantly about my deep-founded aspiration. I felt responsible for all of it. The thing I struggled to comprehend the most was that my mother wasn’t saying no for the sake of saying no, she was doing so because she thought it would in my best interests. Reflecting now I can see that but at the time, I thought she was simply trying to shoot down my dreams. I felt as though I single-handedly would be responsible for my parents divorce. As a 16–17 year old, I did not know what to do and I felt as though there was a very heavy burden on my shoulders. I felt responsible for absolutely everything. Sparing all the nasty details, it was a miserable few months. That being said, I continued my journey through the long application process and kept working hard in school.
After months of deliberations with my family and hard work in school, I was blessed enough to receive a spot at the school of my dreams. My parents are both now happy, having visited and doing their own due diligence on the school. As a result I am even happier. I look forward to continuing this new journey and seeing where life takes me. Hopefully I will be able to continue my pursuit towards the skies and my dreams of becoming a pilot. Until then, make the most of each day and live life to the fullest. I look forward to sharing more here. Please feel free to follow me along during my journey towards becoming a military officer and a young adult.
I think the biggest takeaway thus far from this adventure is that I truly learned that you should pursue your dreams and passion no matter the obstacles presented to you. While I knew that I loved aviation from a very young age, the service academy route was not at the forefront of my desires until early into high school. That being said, I worked hard against my academic struggles, people that told me I couldn’t do it, and more importantly myself to achieve what I truly wanted. Pursue your passions and follow your dreams.