When I first joined the Coast Guard, I considered myself to have an incredibly small family. Biologically speaking, it was just my parents, my two siblings, and me. Throughout high school, I’d expanded to include a handful of incredibly close friends, but even then, I had a small support network. Moreover, I’d subscribed to the school of thought that defined family as the people you chose to surround yourself with. But my time here at the Academy has taught me that family is something you don’t choose, rather it is thrust upon you. Even in the beginning of the semester and after Swab Summer, I didn’t realize how much my family had grown.
Sure, I had my company mates ‒ my fellow fourth class ‒ who I’d toughed out Swab Summer with. Yet even among such a group, there were those of us who didn’t click. I was truly lucky to have roomed in fourth deck Charlie fall semester, on a p-way of only fourth class. Somewhat sequestered from the rest of the wing area, we formed a tight-knit bond as our own little unit. Leaning on each other for anything from late-night Statics and Engineering Design homework help to ironing a buddy’s shirt before a formal room and wing because he had a rugby game, we had our own little microcosm. And it ran like a well-oiled machine. Yes, we had our little spats. Two or three of us would be grumpy the whole week prior to an exam, but then we’d all pile into someone’s room and shoot the breeze on a Saturday night instead of going out on liberty, just to decompress as a fam. We had our one practical joker, our resident bookworm, our cynic, our cheerleader, the list went on. Everyone was a piece of the puzzle and that suited each of us just fine. But there was another of my company mates who lived on third deck, far away from the fourth deck biosphere. She has become a sister and a mother to me, through all the first semester’s trials and tribulations.
It was roughly 10 a.m. the Saturday of Parents’ Weekend, the two of us standing in the grass before Hamilton Hall with the hordes of parents and loved ones, all related in some fashion or other to different members of the Corps of Cadets. My parents were unable to make it up to Connecticut for the weekend, so I didn’t have anyone to look forward to seeing. To top it off, I was recovering from an injury ‒ just like my shipmate ‒ so we both couldn’t drill. But from the moment she and I waved her parents over to join us in watching the pomp and circumstance of the special drill ceremony, that bond of sisterhood solidified. Her unconditional acceptance of me into her family is one of the things that has grounded me during my time in New London, in an environment where it’s really easy to lose yourself in the stress.
Your family here is that which makes you smile and laugh every day in spite of all the class assignments, sports obligations, and military trainings. It’s what makes you get up in the morning instead of rolling over after reveille to sleep in, like any other college kid. It makes getting through the workday an exercise in trying not to laugh at each other’s blunders rather than a string of failures and insurmountable challenges. The idea of family is that which makes the Coast Guard the Coast Guard, and it’s what makes this academy just that little bit better than its sister academies.
More about Leah.