The hats have been tossed. The roar of the Thunderbirds fly-over a memory. The Commissioning ceremonies all done. The CACs no longer having "cadet" as rank. And finally the car loaded up tight with stuff for the first duty station. WE ARE DONE! After four long and yes, some stressful years at USAFA, we now have a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant. Congratulations to all the graduates of the SA classes of 2017 and their parents. A job well done. For those starting basic training in a few weeks, good luck and keep your eyes on the prize and never let go. USAFA and all the SAs are indeed roller coasters until the very end. Think marathon, not sprint. You can get pulled off the graduation list mere days from the Big Day. The ride isn't over until you have that blue box with your diploma in your hands. Like people have said in the past, getting into USAFA is a lot easier than graduating from USAFA or any of the other SAs. For those applying or thinking of applying, do it for yourselves and not for anyone else. You don't have to be a valedictorian, a super athlete, have a gazillion community service hours or the kid that worked 2 jobs. My ex-cadet was neither any of those (although a lot of her classmates were one or all of the above.) Be the best candidate with what you have available. Take the hardest classes your school offers. Have the drive to be better than what you are and are willing to work your behind off. And no matter what most people want you to believe, a lot of those who entered in 2013 were NOT the gung-ho "I want to be a military officer" types when they started. Some went in for the sports, some for the financial security, some to escape/leave a home situation and some just because their parents wanted them to go. So if these are any your reasons, go apply, you are not alone. It's ok too. We knew a lot of gung-ho kids who washed out and quit during and after BCT and over the last four years and quite a bunch of "WTH am I doing here" kids throw their caps into the air last week. For those at the academy, keep grinding through the next few years. It gets better and there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Study hard. Get help before things get out of hand and out of control. Get as much EI as you can and help those struggling if you can spare the time. Be careful with sexual situations, we knew 2 cadets get kicked out because of this. Alcohol was always involved. The academy is not easy, my kid can attest to that. But the academy also give you a lot of tools to help you succeed and not fail. It is up to you to avail of those services. The faculty is top notch, we can attest to that. They will go above and beyond to see that the students make it through but they will also not hold your hand. To all the parents, enjoy the ride. We had many ups and downs, laughter and tears, sleepless nights and high fives. It is truly the ride of a lifetime - I don't know how we survived but we did. The constant support of the other parents, the FB pages, SAF groups and a LOT OF PRAYERS helped a lot. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE.