June 7, 2009


Workbook or Ebook

You don’t have to be a miracle-worker to be the 10% of applicants accepted to a military academy, but you do need a plan. For the thousands of students who apply every year–and slog through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination–there is no greater discouragement than the likely event that they will fail. This, though, is the Board’s peek into an applicant’s moral fiber and an important ingredient to the go/no go decision. In the words of James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.” This is the true story of Maggie Schmidt, an All-American kid who dreamt of attending the Naval Academy when her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. This book describes her background and academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package. Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and the decisions she must make that some consider impossible for an adolescent, but are achievable for thousands of like-minded teens. This workbook walks you through the long process, provides check lists of everything required, decision making matrices, goal-setting exercises to determine if USNA is a good fit for you, and a mix of motivation and academic advice to balance a decision that rightfully might be the biggest one most teens have ever made.

Available at:


Amazon–Kindle edition


Publisher’s Website

Scribd.com–the ebook



What are the three most intimidating failures of your life?  Taking your driving test? Scoring the winning goal—for the other team?  Or, have you failed over and over again, and still believed success lives just ahead, just out of reach but waiting for you?

For the thousands of students who apply every year for one of the four military academies, slogging through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination, there is no greater intimidation than the statistically likely event that they will apply and fail.  That’s an examination into the pithiness of moral fiber important to the USNA, and eulogized by James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner:

“The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.”

For those just beginning the process of applying to the United States Naval Academy, propelled into harms way by the fervor to serve your country and blend your life into “the military family”, the desire for an engineer’s blueprint to articulate the steps, or a mathematical formula that quantifies the process is overwhelming.  Anything that will increase those unlikely odds.

Luckily, the tunnel you wander down pursuing your dream not only has a light, but footprints to follow. You stumble forward toward the murky pin-prick bobbing up ahead, far down the dark passageway. Its barely there, only just showing through the dimness called ‘growing up’ and the back-light of contradictions between where you are and where you want to be.  But, the closer you step toward it, the sharper and clearer the image.  And the clarity reveals the detail like the layers of a digital picture until, finally, you can make out that goal just past senior year.

This true story is for you.

The United States Naval Academy provides one of the most prestigious educations available. The caliber of classes, professors, and your fellow students are unmatched anywhere in the country. But it comes with strings attached. You must use that top-notch training in the service of your country for at least five years following graduation, defending our shores and values from enemies, whether the aggressive military type, computer hackers, or benign fellows wearing the face of a neighbor.

Every year, over 56,000 students—and 112,000 parents—apply to a military academy, in excess of 14,000 to the United States Naval Academy.  How does a normal kid, with a good GPA, a well-rounded life, and a passion to serve his country overcome the mystique of the Naval Academy?  The first thought when adults hear ‘USNA’ and ‘college acceptance’ in the same sentence is ‘Wow, you must be smart!’ To all but about 1200 lucky appointees, candidacy resembles Fermat’s Theorem—impossible unless you’re a precocious genius (like Andrew Wiles).  The application process puts the chaos in Chaos Theory.

Surprisingly, there are no classes in “How to Crack the United States Naval Academy Application” and no books chronicle an effective effort. Surprising, because a methodical, well-organized series of steps taken in a systematic order will get you there. It may feel like climbing Herndon at the end of Plebe year, but it works.

This is the true story of how one All-American kid—like those many that apply—did it. She had no idea she could aim so high and succeed so succinctly.  She began by tagging along after her brother’s USNA dream and found herself intrigued by the quality of education, depth of opportunity, and eminence of applicants selected for admittance.  Her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. If she dreamt of attending a college where she fit in and attracted kindred souls, this qualified.

She took that first step, signing the attendance roster at a local Academy Night, with ninety-seven other students.  And with a clear-eyed faith in herself, she began the Academy Application Experience.  I’ve catalogued those steps from her first nascent thought through the unreal days of Summer Seminar.  I’ve crystallized when the dream became an obsession—something she knew she had to try or never forgive herself—and most important, how she translated vision to reality.

And I’ve revealed her strategy to success. Exactly the same as the great Olympian, Carmen Boyle, described the strategy behind Luge:

“Lie flat and try not to die.”

Maggie Schmidt, the heroine, is Everygirl. Like your neighbor or your daughter’s best friend. The story’s drama lies in her conversion to a successful candidate.  The reader is left with the feeling, If Maggie can do it, so can (I)/(my daughter).

When you first meet Maggie, you may wonder, why does she think an Ivy League school will accept her?  She doesn’t earn straight A’s or play quarterback on the football team—or center on the volleyball squad.  I describe in detail her background, her academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package.  Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and allows her to fight the good fight. The support from family and friends, and decisions she must make that superficially appear impossible for an adolescent, but are in fact achievable for thousands of like-minded teens.

This is a true story. The only changes I’ve made are Maggie’s name and those of friends and acquaintances.

More of a preview?

View this document on Scribd

…or go to Amazon.com’s Look Inside feature.

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In Memory of America’s Everyday Heros

May 30, 2011

Thank you to those in uniform to protect all that is America. We remember you.


Chat With the Author of Building a Midshipman

July 14, 2010

Brandi Drury is the propprietor of a lovely blog, BK Walker’s Muse. She wanted to interview me about my career in writing and two of my books that are aimed at kids. We have a wonderful chat, which you can read at Tech Talk with Author Jacqui Murray. While you’re there, spend some time wandering through her other posts. You won’t regret it.

I want to thank Brandi for taking the time to chat with me and post my work on her blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Tech Talk with Author Jacqui Murray

Today my guest is Jacqui Murray.  Thank you for stopping in Jacqui.  Please tell us a little about yourself……

I was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, I spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, I live with my husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors and I write. I write how-books, five blogs on everything from the USNA to tech to science, and a column for the Examiner on tech tips.

Oh. I also write books.

What inspired you to pen your first title?

My non-fictions books are all inspired by similar circumstances. When my daughter wanted a book on how to get into the Naval Academy, all she could find were books that told her how hard it was, how selective they were, how very few could achieve it. My daughter brushed them off, but I wondered how many kids would be discouraged by that approach and decided to write a book explaining how to achieve the goal, not why kids couldn’t. I stressed how teens can solve the problems that stood in their way rather than why they couldn’t, how they could get where they wanted to go rather than why they couldn’t get there. That worked for my daughter and I had no doubt it would work for others. From what I hear from readers, it’s true.
My tech workbooks are the same. When I went back to teaching, I could find no workbooks for teaching technology to K-5. There were how-tos, but not geared for students of that age group. So I decided to write them. I geared the books for parents with nominal computer skills, homeschoolers and lab specialists. It outlines the method I use in my classes that gets kids from the most basics of computer skills in kindergarten to Photoshop by fifth grade. I’m not surprised that the method works, and is now being used in school districts all over the country.

How long have you been writing?

About twelve years.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular novel?

Marketing it. I love everything about writing, even when I hate it. But selling my stuff—that’s difficult. Publishers don’t do that much any more, so it’s up to me to get the word out. The internet’s great for that, as well as social networks, blogs, websites, and Virtual Tours, of course.

Have any dreams been realized as a result of your writing?

A big part of writing my tech workbooks was to organize my thoughts so I could teach the material better. That has worked so very well. I find that having a plan, like a map, never fails to get my students to the finish line. I hear this over and over from parents, that they can’t believe how much their kids have accomplished in my classes. Well, that’s because we know where we’re going and we know how to get there. It sounds simple, but how often does it not happen in tech classes.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

I am working on a fiction series. I love science and want to pass that passion on to students, so my fiction endeavors have that goal in mind. My first fiction novel, To Hunt a Sub, is a techno-thriller about nefarious characters using brainy science to steal America’s Trident submarines and how an equally-brainy female grad student stops them. It won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award last year and is in the final stages of rewrite. I have an excerpt available on Scribd.com.

What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?

My advice is to write to your passion. That’s a little different from write what you know, but in my experience, research fills in the knowledge gaps and gives the author so much more in the writing experience. So, I love finding topics that fascinates me, researching them and weaving them into an inspiring story. If you can do that, you’ll never worry about getting rejected by agents or not getting published because you’ll already have gotten so much more than you gave out of your writing.

Anything else you would like to share with us today?……

Please feel free to send me any questions, ideas, your own tips, at my tech blog (AskATechTeacher) or my Naval Academy blog(USNAorBust). My books are available at: Amazon.com and the publisher’s websitewww.structuredlearning.net). The ebooks are available on www.Scribd.com



Remember the Pueblo

July 11, 2010

Written by Oliver North
Thursday February 5, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The United States won the Cold War without ever firing a shot.” It’s a claim I’ve never understood.

Though our victory was secured without a cataclysmic nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, it took a terrible toll on American lives, limbs and treasure. From battlefields in Korea, Vietnam, Central America and the Middle East — and in the shadowy world of espionage — the Cold War was only “cold” to those who didn’t fight in it.

Last week, Cmdr. Lloyd “Pete” Bucher, USN, one of the most courageous of those “Cold Warriors,” passed from this veil of tears — a loss barely noted by my colleagues in the media. On Jan. 23, 1968, Pete Bucher was in command of the USS Pueblo, a surveillance ship that was attacked and captured by North Korea in international waters. Captain and crew were held captive for 11 months, brutally beaten and deprived of sleep, food and medical care. Their ignominious treatment wasn’t much better after they returned home.

The story of Pete Bucher is an American saga. Born in 1927, and orphaned as an infant, he was a ward of the state until adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Austin Bucher. But they, too, died during Pete’s childhood, and once again he was remanded to a state home. Finally, in 1940, Pete learned about Boys Town in Nebraska by watching Spencer Tracy portray Father Edward Flanagan. Pete wrote to the real Father Flanagan, who responded with a train ticket. Pete would later explain, “Boys Town was the only home that I ever had.”

After joining the Navy and working his way up the ranks, Bucher hoped to command a submarine. Instead, he was given the helm of the USS Pueblo, a 176-foot, World War II-era converted cargo vessel, a “flat bottomed and hard-riding ship,” according to Pete. The Pueblo carried electronic and radio equipment to intercept communications and gather intelligence. On the eve of its maiden, and only, voyage, Rear Adm. Frank Johnson cautioned Bucher, prophetically, “Remember, you are not going out there to start a war.”

The Pueblo’s orders were to cruise well off the eastern coast of North Korea, part of a top-secret mission called “Operation Clickbeetle.” But by the time the Pueblo arrived off the coast of Korea in January 1968, the uneasy armistice that had prevailed since the end of the Korean War was fraying. The North Koreans were actively infiltrating agents into South Korea, and when they attempted to assassinate South Korean President Park Chung Hee, nobody bothered to notify the Pueblo.

On Jan. 23, 1968, while in international waters, the Pueblo, armed with only two .50-caliber machine guns, was attacked by four North Korean torpedo boats. After evading a North Korean boarding party, Bucher and his crew were subjected to a barrage of cannon fire. One American crewman was killed, and 10 were wounded, including Bucher. Despite frantic radio messages from the Pueblo seeking air support, no help was forthcoming. A second North Korean boarding party captured Bucher and the surviving 81 crewmembers.

Before the Pueblo was seized, Bucher and his crew managed to smash most of the intelligence equipment and destroy much of the classified material by burning it in garbage pails. Bucher described the process as a “poor substitute” for the destruction system he had requested before setting sail.

Held in concrete cells, the Pueblo crew was starved and tortured for 11 months. Fed mostly turnips, many of the malnourished crewmen began to lose their sight. They were repeatedly beaten and burned on steam radiators. Bob Chicca, one of the crew members told me, “They would use rifle butts, or pieces of wood, whatever they had handy to beat us.” By all accounts, Bucher bore the brunt of the North Korean’s wrath. “He was beaten more than anybody else,” crewman James Kell said. “We were all beaten, we all were tortured. But (Bucher) had it double, triple, quadruple what we got.”

Stu Russell, another crewman, echoed Kell’s praise of Bucher. “The man was a giant. No matter who did what, he was always punished. I simply don’t know where he got the strength and courage to go through what he did.”
Eventually, to save the lives of his crew, Bucher signed a coerced “confession.” His men called themselves “Bucher’s Bastards,” in honor of their courageous skipper, and he encouraged them to extend a middle finger when being photographed so that Americans and officials back home would know they were resisting their torturers. The crew’s spirits rose until Time magazine reported the meaning of the gesture.

After the North Koreans read Time magazine and realized the crew’s defiance, they suffered “Hell Week” for it. “They almost killed me during Hell Week,” Bucher told me. “They redoubled their efforts to beat and torture every member of the crew.”

Finally, after nearly a year, the Pueblo crew’s release was secured, after the U.S. government agreed to a bogus “confession.” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gilbert Woodward repudiated the text even as he signed it on behalf of his country: “The document which I am going to sign was prepared by the North Koreans. My signature will not and cannot alter the facts. I will sign the documents to free the crew and only to free the crew.” The crew was released one by one to cross the “Bridge of No Return” from North to South Korea. “It was like coming out of the grave,” Bucher said. “I never thought I’d see that day.”

But instead of returning to accolades, Bucher came home to face a Navy Court of Inquiry criticizing him for surrendering his ship. In 1989, the Pentagon finally issued POW medals to the Pueblo crew.

During the height of the ordeal, Pete Bucher’s beloved wife, Rose, handed out bumper stickers reminding the public to “Remember the Pueblo.”

Now, 36 years after the capture, Pete Bucher is at rest overlooking San Diego Bay at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and the USS Pueblo is still in North Korea, on the Taedong River, near Pyongyang. His pallbearers included three of “Bucher’s Bastards,” who recalled his courage and leadership during their 11 months in North Korean hell. They are old men now, but their message is still the same: “Remember the Pueblo.”


Military Academy Induction Day

June 3, 2010



A Tribute to Our Heroes

May 31, 2010

Thank you for your service…



July 11, 2009


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