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The Ten Scariest Things in the World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan What’s the scariest thing you can think of? If you had asked me this twelve years ago, I would have told you without a moment’s hesitation that it was the monster that hid inside my closet, waiting for me to fall asleep to invade my dreams. Five years ago, at the ripe old age of thirteen, I would scoff at the premise of a monster in my closet and instead inform you that the real thing to fear was being unaccepted, being labeled an outcast by your peers. Nine months ago had you posed this question to me my answer would have been, in a heartbeat, being picked out and noticed by some cadre and being singled out for some special remediation. I’m here to tell you now though, that the scariest thing in the world isn’t some monster, isn’t becoming a social pariah, and most certainly isn’t having a cadre screaming in your face. The most frightening thing in the world is a green tablecloth and four gold bars.

Less than ten minutes ago, I was sitting in a conference room watching one of my classmates being masted. He was brought before the Commandant of Cadets, a Captain with shoulder boards of four golden bars, and was positioned across a green tablecloth from him. His charges were brought before him, and every aspect of his cadet career, every minute detail, positive or negative, was brought forth and splayed out upon the table. I cannot begin to imagine how he felt, standing there waiting for a punishment to be handed down, knowing that his future, his dreams, his goals, his aspirations, all lay waiting to be cut down by a single sentence from the Captain. I had stationed myself in the farthest corner behind a row of people, attempting to distance myself as much as possible from the proceedings, and I still felt as though the Captain was boring into me with his eyes and his words. My shipmate made a very heartfelt apology in his closing statement and in it he recognized the fact that he had made a mistake, and that he had lost the motivation to continue on the course he had set for himself.

So why am I relating this to you? I’ll be quite honest, part of it is out of a purely selfish desire to vent my feelings onto paper, a need to take what I have witnessed and to save my raw feelings and emotions for perusal at a later date, but in a sense I’m also giving you this episode in order to reiterate something I’ve said before: you make sacrifices to come here. Now I’m not going to go into specifics on what my shipmate did, but to put it simply, he sacrificed his honor and his career for a few hours of fun and freedom. When we first put on these uniforms, we sacrificed having a normal life; we are bound by rules and regulations, which no college student on a non-military campus would have to endure. It’s a knowing commitment to a higher ideal that we make, and we have to abide by it.

Why is that green tablecloth the scariest thing in the world to me? It’s not necessarily just because of the fear of being kicked out, its because I fear having to experience that shame and having to bear that burden of knowing that I cheated myself, just as I could tell my shipmate was feeling today. It’s an age-old adage that to get a donkey to pull a cart you need both a carrot and a stick. I can see the carrot lying four years down the road in a single gold bar and a commission, but I think its good that there's such a powerful stick looming over my head, much closer and much stronger a presence than the carrot. I helps to make sure we stay on the right track.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

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