“Go Faster Cadet!” I felt my heart busting through my chest bone. Sweat stained my shirt and underarms. Invisible needles penetrated my ribs. A stinging twinge exploded through my calves. I felt unimaginable pain but I, a lazy, computer nerd, just kept running. Stopping would only result to something ten times as worse as this. Only moments later I began to slow down and I knew he could tell. “You are a sorry excuse for a solider!!” I heard him yell. Nothing could compare to what I was enduring– at least I thought so. No one was there to motivate me. The Sergeant never helped me. My body collapsed into the mud and made a loud thud under the sharp wires. I gave up. I prayed for some sort of mercy but I knew the bulky, screaming monster next to me in the army pants knew of no such thing. Thank goodness this scenario did not actually happen. It was what I expected to happen. As I was strapped in my seat thousands of feet above the grown with no escape, my fear of flying was completely overpowered by the fear of where I was going. I was about to spend one week of my life at West Point College in New York…. the United States Military Academy.
I and a few others were selected out of hundreds of other students in my high school to attend West Point Summer Leadership Seminar because of my excelling academics and budding leadership skills. I heard it was a week long program to give students a “taste” of what it would feel like to attend West Point Academy and be in the army. To have this recognition was an honor for a common person like me but the honor made me forget what I was getting myself into. After landing, we all arrived at West Point and boarded on a bus where other students from other schools sat. As the bus pulled up a seemingly endless rocky road, we finally passed the sign that said West Point. I gasped. The campus was shockingly beautiful. There was the shiny Hudson River flowing below the castle styled academy. Statues of different bronze soldiers and cannons were spread around the campus grounds. I admit the campus was actually beautiful, but what of the army men that dwelled inside?
To my surprise, the army men were not big, powerful ogres I imagined them to be. They were simply young and athletic students in a white round hat and white, gold medallion covered uniforms. They joked around, got to know everyone, and made me feel welcome. I thought that I would try to cling to my schoolmates out of fear but they were the last thing on my mind. I ended up meeting other girls and boys from all over the world. One boy was from Japan. Another girl came from Ireland. All the different accents, cultures, and just the diversity introduced here at West Point were appealing. Every morning, we all were required to do physical training. My heart sped up when they told us this. I was not fit at all and I definitely did not want to embarrass myself in front of the Sergeants.
I dreaded the morning runs, pushups, crunches, and other strenuous exercises. I was in pain, overwhelmed by fatigue, and I wanted to run away. However, I was not prepared for the two mile run we all were required to do on the final day of physical training. When a whistle was blown, the students pushed forward down the road. In a matter of minutes I stayed away from the group and resorted to walking. Tears streamed down my face because I was ashamed. I wanted to quit. However I heard a voice. I looked up to see a sergeant named Sergeant Lupo. “You can do it Weir!”, he told me. He slowed down for me, motivated me, and showed…compassion. He did not yell at me. He was merciful yet believed in my strength. Even though I was the slowest, the weakest, and even the last, I ended up finishing the two mile run because I had a sergeant right by my side to push me on. At the finish line, students and the other Sergeants were there cheering and screaming my name. Back on the plane ride home, I thought about what I had learned. I learned important things during my stay at West Point. I found out that my mentality outweighs my physical strength, I should not jump to conclusions, that armymen are not brutal yet compassionate, and that West Point was the best experience of my summer.
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