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Family Inspired Flight

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Keith Photo 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.

 

How My Parents Influenced Me While at the Academy

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Outside of Leamy Hall there is a small statue that stands as a tribute to Coast Guard Cadets’ parents. I pass the statue daily, and rarely think of the meaning behind it. However, with Parents’ Weekend just around the corner, it’s hard not to think of my parents and what they did to make me the man I am today. My father, who is a 1978 graduate of the Naval Academy, influenced me early on with military lore. I grew up not far from Annapolis, Maryland, so I spent a lot of fall weekends on the grounds of the Naval Academy at football games. I grew fond of the military uniforms and tradition that seemed embedded in Annapolis. As I expressed more interest in the military my parents decided it would only be fair that I saw all the military academies. They decided that by seeing the Coast Guard Academy, we could knock out two birds with one stone, giving me the grand experience of visiting New England while seeing an academy. Being from Virginia, I had never really ventured north of New York City and New England seemed like a foreign nation to me. However, I remember after stepping foot on the campus the first time I had a feeling of purpose, passion, and pride; feelings similar to the ones I got when at the Naval Academy but somehow stronger. I knew that those who had come to the Academy were doing something with their lives, making a difference in the world that many others can’t ever say they did. In that instance I knew I wanted to go to the Coast Guard Academy. I think my dad was a little shocked when I told him I wanted to go to New London instead of his alma mater, but nonetheless he supported me thoroughly in the application process.

 

During Swab Summer I felt I was reliving all the horror stories he had told me about Annapolis, and now when we get together we laugh and joke about how life at the academies seems stopped in time, the same that it is today as it was almost 40 years ago. While my dad and I take all the horrors we experienced at are respective academies as badges of honor, I think my mom still thinks the Academy is trying to kill me, sending “care packages” almost weekly. Still I can honestly say that without my parents taking me up to the Academy five years ago this fall I would have never found out about this place. And now that I’m here, my parents’ encouragement and the pride they express in me is all the motivation I need to do my absolute best. It’s parents like mine that make that statue outside Leamy stand tall, and I thank God that I have them.

 



More about James.