In light of the current March Madness going on in college basketball, I did some reflecting on my “final four” experiences that I’ve had here at the Coast Guard Academy. So I now present to you, in no particular order, my “final four.” (Also note that just as in the real NCAA basketball tournament, I have divided up my “final four” experiences into separate regions where they took place!).
#1 (East Region) Without a doubt, one of my greatest memories since coming to the Academy was getting to take part in the Presidential Inauguration parade back in January. At the time, when I was writing about and reflecting upon my experience in the parade, I remember thinking that it was a lot of fun, but I was also VERY tired, had a lot of homework to do, and had the whole semester ahead of me to complete; so the parade was really not that important to me. Now, two months later, as I reflect once more, I am beginning to truly realize how special and rare of an opportunity I had that weekend. As I marched through D.C., and heard the cheers of the crowd, I remember feeling an extreme sense pride in the United States Coast Guard. I am truly honored to have had the privilege to attend the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, and that is why it ranks as one of my “final four” experiences.
#2 (Northeast Region) Over President’s Day Weekend of my 4/c year, I attended a weekend retreat in Vermont that was sponsored by Officers Christian Fellowship. This retreat gave all of the cadets who attended the chance to relax, go skiing, visit the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, and most importantly; study the Bible and gain a better understanding of God’s Word. The speakers who led the discussions that weekend were Mr. and Mrs. Van Antwerp. Mr. Van Antwerp retired from the Army in 2011, after achieving the rank of Lieutenant General and serving as the commander of Army Corps of Engineers. He and his wife are amazing and strong Christians, who shared advice on how to live boldly for Christ. Their faith was amazing and their wisdom and insight into the Bible was great! Not only that, but I also had the opportunity to grow closer to some of my classmates that weekend, who are now four of my closest friends! (One of which is 3/c Justin Sherman, you should check out his blog articles, they’re great!) That truly was one of the pivotal weekends in my spiritual life, and one of the most memorable weekends of my life , which is why it also ranks as one of my “final four” experiences.
#3 (South Region) Being a part of the men’s crew team here at the Academy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it is hard to pinpoint a single day or event that was most memorable with the crew team; because every day is fun and exciting. That being said, this past spring break when we went down to Florida was one of the best weeks of my life, for multiple reasons. For one, the entire week consisted of two practices a day, getting ready and preparing for the upcoming season. Besides the great team comradery and bonding that comes with spending an entire week practicing and hanging out with the crew team, I also had the special opportunity to hang out with my girlfriend for a couple of days that week! I hadn’t seen her since the beginning of January, so that’s why I was so thankful when Maureen (my girlfriend), my mom, and Maureen’s mom were willing to come down to Florida and work through my crazy practice schedule to find some time to spend with me! In fact, on Wednesday of that week Maureen and I got to go to Disneyworld together! It was a fantastic time, and we were so thankful for the opportunity. We definitely made memories that we will remember and treasure for a lifetime! Spending time with the crew team, my girlfriend, and going to Disneyworld, it is no wonder why this was one of the best weeks and best experiences of my Academy career!
#4 (Midwest Region) To round off my list of “final four” experiences, I decided to include my first trip home after beginning Swab Summer. Thanksgiving of my 4/c year – November 2011 – was the first time that I was able to return home. That was after five grueling months of Swab Summer plus the majority of the first semester of 4/c year; arguably the hardest semester at the Academy. I cannot express the emotions I felt as I visited home that first time, and how proud I felt of all that I had accomplished. It continues to be a strange yet exciting experience every time I go home, and every day that I get to spend at home with my family is a day that is truly special to me, but none are so memorable as those first days that I went home after beginning my journey at the Academy.
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