Candidates: Before you accept your nomination, think about Paul

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by scoutpilot, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    After a long discussion on another thread about a young man who quit Beast after only one week because he "didn't want to dedicate four years to the military," it seems to me that this subject (which is near and dear to me) bears further mentioning.

    This is my friend Paul. Today, 8 July, would have been his 28th birthday.

    [​IMG]

    Paul was a model American and a model of a man. He was all the things that parents hope for their sons to be: strong, forthright, intelligent, and kind-hearted. He was an Eagle Scout, a JROTC standout, and a West Point graduate. He was a Ranger and a Paratrooper, which places him among the finest our nation has to offer. Paul died while in command, doing what he loved: leading his paratroopers through the Arghandhab Valley, day after day, doing whatever he could to make his small part of a very complex place a little bit safer, a little bit better.

    I want you all to think about these things before commit to attending West Point:

    -Military life is hard. Even when it's easy, it's hard. In 6 years, I have lived in 5 homes, not counting tents and shacks and safehouses overseas. I have been with my wife for 50 months. We've spent 5 months in the same state.

    -West Point will ask much of you. It will, in large measure, not be fun most days. But for everything they ask of you, they will give you something in return. Be sure you understand that, though it won't turn out that way in the end, it will often seem as though they take more than they give. Years later you'll see that wasn't the case, but foresight often fails on hard days and long nights.

    -Though the current conflicts will likely pass, you may face grave danger in your career. My good friend Paul is just one of the 78 USMA graduates who have died in combat since 2001. Seventy-eight. Think about that. That is more than the other academies combined. It's not a contest, but you must understand that ground combat is a risky business, and it is primarily West Point's business.


    Why do I say this? Is it because I want to scare you? Is it because I want to scare your parents? No. That is never the goal. What I want is for you to have some idea of the realities of what military service means. It means sacrifice. It means hardship. It means that you're not going to get to do all the fun, pleasurable things in life at the exact moment you want to do them.

    But the rewards are immense. They outweigh the sacrifice. You will do the most amazing things in the Army. You will see places and meet people and experience adrenaline rushes that you can only find in the military. Civilians pay hundreds of dollars to jump out of airplanes. The Army pays me more to do it. Civilians pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn to fly. The Army paid me extra to do it. In so many ways, most of which defy quick accounting, the Army has made my life and the lives of so many others whole. If you ask those who have served over the years, you will find that their years in the Army were some of the most meaningful and formative years of their young lives. It takes a special organization to do that much for so many people.

    In the end, you must understand that an appointment to West Point is not an offer intended to allow you to get a great education and go off to make your fortune, as those who attend other greats schools will do. Nor is it a "right" that you are owed because of your high school achievements, as someone said of the circumstances surrounding a new cadet's resignation. Far from it.

    An appointment to West Point is a sacred investment by our nation in you, the candidate. Simply put, our nation places the honor of securing our way of life in your hands, with the good faith that you will not fail. An appointment comes with great responsibility to yourself, your Army, and the nation. It should be neither accepted nor tossed aside lightly, especially because of a lack of understanding on your part.

    As always, good luck. Grip hands.

    -SP
     
  2. AKH

    AKH Member

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    Scout, I'm so glad you are on these forums. Thank you!
     
  3. Maximus

    Maximus Member

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    Thanks for sharing Scout.
     
  4. hkim93

    hkim93 Member

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    Inspirational-- Thank you.
     
  5. Peter

    Peter Member

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    Sorry to hear about your friend Paul. He definitely sets an example of what is expected of a USMA graduate, a successful Army officer, and, most importantly, a successful person. Thank you for sharing this information with us scoutpilot.
     
  6. Iwheel

    Iwheel Parent of

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    Hope people will carefully consider what you say. The fact is that it is easier to feel confidence and show "qualification" in essays under little stress.

    The number of nomination slots should be increased so we can sort people out in Beast etc. and give those truly "qualified" the opportunity to excel.
     
  7. momoftwins

    momoftwins Founding Member

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    scoutpilot,

    Thank you so much for this post. My heart aches for your friend's family and for your loss of a dear friend.

    In the meantime, your words needed to be written and every candidate should read them. It's easy enough to get caught up in the excitement of being appointed to West Point. However, it's critical to understand the realities of the decision to accept the appointment.
     
  8. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    Sir,
    Truely the inspirational post. It has definitely added fuel to my flame and I still have the same aspirations as ever. Thanks again sir.
     
  9. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Well said, EXTREMELY well said.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  10. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Sadly, Paul was the only son of his beloved mother, a schoolteacher. He never had a dad. She is holding up as well as she can, all things considered. We try to reach out to her often, but there is no replacing her only child.

    Sadly, homecomings like Paul's, shown below, are a reality of military life.

    [​IMG]

    Again, this is not meant to be a macabre or soul-crushing missive. But I did, in some way, feel inspired by the birthday of my good friend. He is sorely missed and everyday, as my bracelet reminds me, I try to live a life worthy of his sacrifice.

    I want all our young folks to know that the military is not all fanfare and parades. Accepting a nomination is not about the pats on the back they'll receive from the hands of family, friends, teachers, and community leaders. In their darkest hour, those hands will not be there. Something inside them must propel them to forward. West Point will build that something inside them if they let it, but it will not happen if they go into it with their eyes closed about what a military career entails.

    Candidates, West Point is not something to be taken lightly. No academy is, nor is ROTC. But West Point is orders of magnitude more demanding than ROTC and is a much deeper and more involved experience in the path to officership that will test you in ways that ROTC will not (SMCs are the notable exception). You must be prepared for four years of self-abnegation, starting with Beast. Don't let that catch you by surprise.

    I firmly believe that West Point will make you the best officer you can be. But it's something you have to want to be.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2010
  11. M2inOR

    M2inOR Parent

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    Thank you. Well said!
     
  12. WAMom68

    WAMom68 Founding Member

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    ScoutPilot - thank you for your touching post about your friend. As a mother I feel so much sympathy for Paul's mother. It is devastating to lose a child, let alone your only child. I hope it helps her a tiny bit that many people she does not know are praying for her and remembering her son and his sacrifice.
     
  13. CPT_Claw

    CPT_Claw Member

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    Thank you, Scout for sharing Paul's story.

    It illustrates an important factor that all prospective Cadets need to take into account when they are taking the steps towards an appointment.

    Ask yourselves the hard questions now. Understand the commitment you are undertaking and the responsibilities that commitment will entail. You are getting a first class education on the taxpayers' dime. But that had better not be the reason you are applying. You will pay the taxpayers back - not just with with five years or so of your life - you are paying them back in myriad other ways: by leading THEIR sons and daughters in very trying times; by spending weeks, months and years away from your own spouse, sons and daughters; by going places and doing things that 'weren't in the West Point brochure,' and potentially, as Paul's story demonstrates, paying them back by giving the ultimate sacrifice. If you recognize that it is not for you, then back away now and pursue another path somewhere else. But if you realize what is expected in return and can embrace it, then you will be embarking on a positive, life changing experience that is difficult to match anywhere.

    My son had this driven home to him when he visited USMA last spring as HS senior. At one of the meals, they announced that a recent graduate (1LT) had fallen in service. He said a couple of the Cows and Firsties at the table knew him. He was most struck by how everyone in Washington Hall reacted - that a brother had fallen. I asked him what he thought of it all and he said that it drove home the importance of what we as a country are doing; and the importance of the role USMA plays in the effort. I followed it up by asking what he thought of it personally, and he said it soldified his resolve to be a part of it all.

    I got a call from him the other night. He was just finishing his second week of Beast and he said that he has reminded himself of that announcement during the meal in Washington Hall a few times already - when he was starting to feel sorry for himself because the cadre was yelling at him or the heat was uncomfortable or he only had 5 seconds to chew each bite. And it made him see the big picture again. I'm sure he'll still gripe and vent during his time at the Academy, but remembering the reason he is there and what comes after is why he'll want to stay.

    Keep asking the tough questions of the prospects, Scout. You owe it them, and to Paul.
     
  14. BigNick

    BigNick Member

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    I dad my son who is a candidate for the Class of 2015 read this. He was very moved - thanks
     
  15. Iwheel

    Iwheel Parent of

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    Does reading this change his mind?
     
  16. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I doubt it did, and if not, I'm glad. I don't want to change anyone's mind per se, but simply doublecheck that each of our young friends on this board knows what they're in for as a cadet and ultimately as an officer. These young folks don't have the luxury that my classmates and I enjoyed (despite my delight in pointing out that the Corps has :wink:).

    When I was applying, no one in their right mind ever thought we'd find ourselves at war. Eleven years ago, it just wasn't something anyone thought about with any real concern. Globalization was in! The Soviets and East Germans and their idealogy had been tossed on the rubbish heap. Trade was making everyone richer, pulling the forgotten teeming masses out of poverty (Asian boom/bust, anyone?) and giving everyone the American dream. It never really entered our minds beyond the theoretical level that we might be involved in a protracted war with people bent on destroying us--let alone two of them. It was all abstract, as evidenced by the fact that we spent our training time setting up L-ambushes and dug-in positions, identifying eastern bloc armor and creating blocking obstacles.

    Then, one bright sunny morning as I sat on CQ for my first time, my Tac officer walked in and told me the world had changed. "An airplane just hit the World Trade Center," he said. We walked into his office and turned on the TV in time to watch the second plane hit. Then the towers fell, and along with them went the sense of invincibility that we had enjoyed since the Gulf War. Lots of us had soul-searching to do, as we all were still able to leave. I'm proud to say that few did. I'm also proud and humbled to be counted amongst the ranks of graduates like Paul Pena and our 11 other classmates who've seen their duty through to its mortal conclusion.

    Our young candidates now don't have the luxury of innocence. There is no doubt that we are engaged in a long struggle. Afghanistan, though not gruesome in the way that Vietnam was, is now our longest war. Ever. That's a lot to think about, and all I ask is that these candidates take careful note that even though the wars will likely be concluded in the 5 1/2 years before they're in the force, military life is never easy and we are always but one step away from another conflict. (In fact, if we assume the potential of a 20-year career span for each graduate, there isn't a single class since WWII that hasn't seen a war of some type.)

    Officership is a sacred trust. There is a great excerpt from a book called Once a Warrior King that sums up the trust we will place in each young candidate who accepts an appointment. In the book, a cadet asks an officer named MAJ Herbert what to do if his men refuse to move under fire. The major said: "If your troops are down and won't move, you simply have to stand up and lead by personal example. When all the chips are down, when the privates won't move and the sergeants won't move and fear has taken over everything, all the responsibility falls on your shoulders. You took the rank, you took the privileges, now you have to pay the dues. You've got to stand up and by God lead those men!"

    I know that the young folks we're sending to West Point and the other commissioning sources right now will, in due time, be capable of all that and more. :thumb:
     
  17. njdos92

    njdos92 Buckeye Battalion Cadet

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    Scout, your posts were very inspiring and it has further resolved my desire to attend West Point and serve our country. Before I read your post, I had a difficult time putting into words why I want to be in the Army and go to West Point; I always knew these reasons but could not express them properly. Your words have inspired me. I am more committed than ever to excel during my time in ROTC and hopefully when I make it to West Point. Thank you for sharing.
     
  18. jake s

    jake s USMA Cadet

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    One year ago today, our country lost a great man. Thank you CPT Pena for your sacrifice.
     
  19. Chockstock

    Chockstock "Forever One Team"

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    Scoutpilot, I think you should pursue a career in writing someday down the road. This was really well-written and you definitely hit the nail on the head...saving the post for future reference!

    God bless CPT Pena and his mother for their sacrifice - I'm reminded again of what big shoes we are left to fill :frown:
     
  20. Ectriso

    Ectriso Member

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    Scoutpilot, I am normally a lurker (refresh website about every 5 min :wink:) but I had to post on this one. As a junior considering universities, this has been something I have been seriously thinking about. After reading this post, I have been contemplating on what you wrote and thinking about the sacrifice this amazing man/soldier/officer has made. It has only reaffirmed my belief that the military is the career that I want to pursue. I can only imagine the grief that his mother is feeling. Thank you so much for posting this, it is a must read. I hope that everyone gets as much out of this post that I have.
     

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