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Focus on Service

Commencement On the Rise

A Midshipman shares her experiences at the USNA

A few weeks ago, I walked back from a friend's room in a sullen daze, not unlike a lot of the worn out nights I've had since coming to the United States Naval Academy.

I had nearly 10 impossible things to accomplish before I could go to sleep and they all rushed through my mind fighting for my attention. As I opened the doors to an overpass, I was emotionally struck with an array of a multi-toned sunset cascading over the great hall we call "Bancroft." I was amazed to find myself warmed by the feeling that this place was my home.

My time here is abruptly coming to an end. My classmates and I will walk across the stage with a document of our accomplishment, stating our graduation. However, it is so much more than a piece of paper. Our graduation is not the end; it is the beginning. Our commissioning symbolizes the vast amount of days we have spent working to better ourselves and each other. I am starting to get anxious about leaving my friends as we depart to all of the corners of the world because they have become my brothers and sisters over the course of the last five years.

About five years ago I began my experience as an enlisted sailor and was accepted into the Naval Academy Preparatory school (NAPS) and have been on an exciting adventure toward my commissioning ever since. NAPS prepared me mentally and physically for the rigors of the Academy, but it also granted me an amazing support group of other friends who were in the same position as I was. We walked into I-Day at USNA as a small army of kids who were ready to succeed but still had a lot of development to achieve.

USNA is not a college. It transcends the average four-year experience by encapsulating character development and mental conditioning. It is difficult and there were plenty of days where I wanted to quit, but I had a solid support group of classmates pushing me in the other direction. Looking back on my 19 year old self before this journey, I was a product of my generation: somewhat selfish, arrogant and very independent. I walked into the Academy with some of those characteristics still looming around, even after my time as an enlisted Sailor. I was not ready to lead people. The past four years I have experienced unparalleled mentorship and development from some of the best leaders I have met in my entire life. Through this process, I've learned that there are things in life that are best accomplished with the help of others.
Photo collage of Midshipman 1st Class Anna Wade.

The most important lesson, although simple, took me almost four years to fully comprehend. Through every academic trial, every scratch and bruise, heartaches and mistakes to the death of our classmates and the trials; there has been someone with me along the way. I never had to go through anything alone because someone was there holding their hand out and just waiting for me to grab it. In return, I was able to help others with the things I excelled in. After all, no one is good at everything. However, we all helped each other gradually get better.

USNA has continued to succeed as a commissioning source because of the way we uphold our standards. Honor, courage and commitment are not taken lightly here. We strive to challenge each other to "do the right thing, even when no one is watching." A lot of us came from different backgrounds and we walk away with the same moral standards. We stand up for what is right and we will fight for what is good, because we believe that there is still good in America.

I will walk across the stage and start my journey into the United States Coast Guard, one of two people cross-commissioning in my class. The Academy has blessed me with the opportunity to practice law enforcement in the Coast Guard, and I could not be more excited to start this commissioning; this new beginning. Graduation is not the end; it is the beginning to a great new book to fill with exciting new adventures. As I walk across the stage tomorrow, I will be surrounded by about 1,000 of my brothers and sisters who will always be a part of me; my classmates mean the world to me. I would not be here today without "a little help from my friends" (The Beatles).