Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to become a pilot. My father was a crew chief in the Air Force who worked on F-15s and A-10s as well as an aviation enthusiast. Whether it was going to museums, air shows, or simply watching The Great Waldo Pepper over and over, I was always exposed and enthralled by the magic of flight. While my father is the one who introduced me to aviation at a young age, it’s my mother’s influence that has inspired me to chase and accomplish my dream of taking to the air, in a way I never expected.
When I was seven years old my parents got divorced because my mother had cheated on my dad; she ended up getting custody of my older sister and me. Even though Mom was receiving large child support payments from Dad, my sister and I were always hungry. You see, Mom refused to work and thought that the child support was her personal paycheck. Instead of buying food or paying the rent, she would use that money for cigarettes, booze, and illicit drugs. Up until the fourth grade, when I moved in with Dad after Mom just didn’t pick me up, I was constantly on the move due to getting evicted from apartments; I never knew exactly where my next meal would be coming from or where I would be sleeping that night. Until that point of stability when I lived with Dad, I had attended a dozen different elementary schools.
My middle school years were filled with periodic difficulties with Mom, but I didn’t see her too much because she was busy running from child support people since Dad had custody of my sister and me at that point. However, my sister did eventually move back in with Mom when I was in the eighth grade because she wanted to “live her life” and didn’t want to put up with my Dad and step mom’s rules.
Two years later, as a sophomore, I was working at McDonald’s on a Sunday when an aunt of mine came in and gave me the worst news I had ever heard: my sister and her boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant found Mom dead on a couch. I would later find out that they had been trying to pilfer her purse for cigarettes, and that she had overdosed on drugs, but at that moment the world stood still. I couldn’t, no wouldn’t, believe it. Even though that day was exactly six years from tomorrow (I’m writing this on the 29th, and she died on the 30th of September), I can still remember the feeling like it was yesterday.
You see, despite all of the hardship that I had faced while growing up and disdain I had felt for my Mom, she was still my mother. I never got the chance to see if things could have been fixed. If things could have ended up better.
I was depressed for months afterward. Even though I was an excellent student in high school, my grades started slipping and I felt like I was drifting along, without a purpose or goal in life…until one day I was in my backyard thinking about Mom and saw a biplane fly overhead, it’s engine roaring above me. Suddenly, I remembered my childhood dream of flying. And I decided that whatever it took, I would achieve it.
Initially, I wanted to go into the Air Force because my father had been in it, but after doing some research I discovered the Coast Guard, a service that not only flew, but flew to save lives and stop drugs. Those missions really appealed to me especially because my mother had died from drug overdose.
Besides the fact that it was an avenue to flight school, the Academy also appealed to me because it was a place that espoused the belief in things like responsibility and honor and integrity, qualities that Mom never possessed. I wanted to distinguish myself from Mom as much as possible and I knew that the Academy would help accomplish that goal.
Whenever I have had hang-ups or tough times here, I think about my desire to fly, which is further fueled whenever I think about my mom. This sense of motivation, and the support of my classmates, who I consider family, has enabled me to get this far through the cadet experience and realize that my dream is closer than ever.
More about Jordan.