The journey has been long and hard.....with deep valleys and great highs and I felt sharing my thoughts might inspire those in the infant stage or further motivate those who are nearing the top of the mountain. My son graduated HS in 2009 with nearly everything he needed to earn his appointment to the USMMA. He had great grades, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and the most important ingredient; HEART ! He had two more things not quite on the list of " must haves".....tubes in both his ears ! The tubes were removed, but not in time to be member of the class of 2013. My son made the mature decision to turn down a great offer to attend an Upstate engineering college, and do a " do-over " and attend a prep school for a 5th year of high school. Yes, we self- prepped, putting all our chips on the table to make a dream a reality. I visited this site on a daily basis and absorbed and contributed with the hope that WE would get it right this time. He exceeded anyone's expectations while at this prep school and when that thin envelope arrived I held it up to the light and cried. Yeah, really ! That day our family dropped him off for INDOC was somewhat surreal. That kboy I had thought was a "man" entered with a duffle bag that appeared bigger than him and the look of a lamb being lead to slaughter. The transformation of the "man" began 40 minutes later with him running, gear in hand, at the other end of the building. We all had tears in our eyes ! His thoughts of playing lacrosse and hockey soon gave way to the reality of the rigors and demands soon to be faced and a new focus emerged. The highs and lows he has experienced the last 3+ years are what make him what he is today....right now....and I couldn't be prouder ! A decision to switch from deck to engine was probably the greatest hurdle. He's a Firstclassman, getting great grades and playing hockey. I think he's even having fun now ! One interview......one great job offer. Though the journey has a few more mountains to climb the summit is in sight. If this is what you want then you must never give up and offer 100% for 4 years. Think of what you can contribute to the Academy, not just what you'll be leaving with. Be prepared to convince yourself that a civilian college and the thought of MAYBE graduating with a good job offer aren't good enough. Convince yourself that anything else would be just settling and no matter how difficult it gets the rewards will be tenfold. Sincerely, One Proud Parent !