Plebe to beCongratulations! On being accepted to one of the premiere institutions of higher education in the United States.”

Those words from the United States Naval Academy, on an innocuous eight and a half by eleven sheet of stationary, delivered in a legal size envelope, are addressed to you, Maggie Clara Schmidt, Candidate Number xxxxxx.

You have awaited that envelope—sometimes filled with hope, but more recently with trepidation—for months.  During the humid June days of Summer Seminar, you were told an acceptance letter could arrive anytime after September. September arrived, and departed. As did October. And November. The new year rolled in, and still no word. Then humbling news: A friend received his acceptance letter. You celebrated with him, but worried—when would yours arrive? Why did he hear first??  Will they take you?

Then the Administration invited you to Candidate Visit Weekend—this must be positive! Your Blue and Gold Officer agreed; they don’t invite everyone. You arrived in Annapolis in January, survived the freezing winter weather without complaint, returned home to California, and still no admittance. Lots of reassurances, but no letter.

Now, here it is, in your hand.

“You have the right to be extremely proud of yourself.”

And you are. You were always sure they would accept you—what’s not to like? Tears burst uninvited from your eyes, and a passing car slows to stare at your antics.

The first thing you do is post on IM (Instant Messenger):

“I’m in!”

Everyone you know understands what that means. You email a Plebe friend, and his reply addresses you “Midshipman Schmidt”.

That makes it official. For four years, you will be Midshipman Schmidt. No longer will you be “Varsity soccer player Maggie Schmidt” or “Our concertmaster Maggie Schmidt”. You will be an employee of the United States Armed Services. Hooyah!

Congratulations pour in.

When you wear your USNA jacket (Sprint Football—from your Midshipman pal), people ask, “Are you in the Navy?”

“No, I’m going to the United States Naval Academy.”

“Wow. You must be smart.”  The moniker firmly tattooed onto USNA students.

Some people nod and smile, with no understanding of the path you have chosen. Military seniors talk about their Navy days, memories and advice for the newbie. It’s as though you now belong to the nation’s largest fraternity, a loyal bond of friendship forged by those who wear the uniform.

Your parents can’t stop smiling; their work is done. They’re sending their precious child into the proverbial “harm’s way”, to follow the noblest path available since man first engaged in war, and that’s a good thing. Girlfriends want to meet your male classmates; male friends ask why you want to fight. Your smart friends accept you into their MENSA club.

All of them feel extreme pride for you, their friend, and then pity that, while they spend last lazy days before entering the college classroom, you will be running and jumping and sweating through Plebe Summer.

Go Navy Beat Army

Go Navy Beat Army

But you don’t want a break.

It’s time to start your future.

You sit back and wonder, what happened? Was it prestidigitation, or did they accept me for who I am?

And who am I?

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