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I Sit Now on an Airplane

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan I sit now on an airplane, some 38,000 feet above the ground far below. I’m on my way home for winter leave. As I gaze out over the horizon, I see the patchwork of farms and homesteads that comprise the Midwest. It’s a far cry from that which the Coast Guard normally associates itself with: the absence of “p-ways” and “bulkheads” of “decks” and “heads” reminds me that I’m no longer at the Academy. I must admit that it’s a most delightful experience. I’ve been away from the Academy no more than five hours at most, and yet I’ve already been thanked five or six times. I can’t express to you the feelings that are conveyed to me in those words of thanks. Here I am, a mere freshman, a fourth-class, a peon, a nobody…and yet I’m being thanked for serving my country. It got me thinking back to something one of our second-class told the company right before the last leave…

“You’ll be going home here soon, some of you for the first time since R-day. When you’re traveling in your uniform, you’re going to get noticed, and you’re going to be thanked. I remember when I was a fourth-class I would accept the thanks but always feel really awkward about doing so. I mean, what did I do to deserve it? I wasn’t out there risking my life. All I had to do was brace up, square around, memorize a few page of indoc and march to class. And really, what’s that to them? In fact, I used to think that since they were the taxpayers, I really ought to be thanking them for the free ride. Then it occurred to me. They were thanking me for things I had yet to do. Few, if any of them, realized that I was only a student. They were thanking me for saving their lives, for putting their good ahead of my own, for going out in the cold and wind and rain, to save them and their sons and daughters. They were thanking me for doing a job that I won’t be qualified to do for another four years. They were thanking me in advance. I use their professions of thanks to keep me going. I have yet to earn the respect they were giving me, that they will be giving you. Always strive, in all you do, to earn that respect, to earn those rewarding smiles. If you keep them always in your mind, you won’t be able to do anything wrong. Think about that over break. Think about them…”

I agree with what he said. We’re being thanked for things we’ve yet to do, things that these people imagine that we’ve done because we’re “in the Coast Guard.” This discourse however brings to mind something an Auxillarist once told me. “Never let anyone tell you that you get a free education at this place. You pay for it. Far more than most people.” He had a point. We do pay for this education, through sweat and blood and tears. We pay for it in what we give up: that ‘traditional’ college experience, our summers from home, some basic freedoms. We do pay for it, even if it’s not monetarily. In the end, though, you have to ask yourself the question is it worth it? Is it worth the pain and suffering, is it worth the effort you’ll have to put into it to survive? The answer for me is yes, but that’s not the answer for everyone, and time will tell. I don’t know how, but somehow, this place has a way of rooting out the people who don’t really want to be here.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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