As a military academy parent, you come to accept that your life will be a roller coaster ride pretty much from the time your child commits to making the effort to earn an appointment. To a degree, you learn to live with it and at the Naval Academy, part of your strength is drawn from parents who live by the credo #YourMidIsMyMid.
We celebrate the victories together – from picking majors to Herndon to summer cruises to 2 for 7s – and we console each other during the hard times, even if it’s the strain of waiting for your Mid Sib to hear about her dream of getting her own appointment.
Now, our collective strength as Academy parents is being put to the test.
December’s shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station was stunning enough, then we learned that recent USNA grad Joshua Kaleb Watson was among the victims. The ink on his diploma was barely dry and three-quarters of the brigade had been on The Yard with him, so it was extremely close to home.
The roller coaster careened from that unspeakable sorrow to a victory over Army in THE game, the first and only one for our class during their time on the Severn, and then the excitement of ship selection for the SWO selects. Watching some of the Firsties I’ve come to know choose their first ship and port of call brought a smile to my face. After all, #YourMidIsMyMid. I teased the mom of one of those Mids – “see you in San Diego!” where her daughter would be stationed.
But as the excitement ebbed and the Dark Ages kicked in, our emotions came crashing down. Midshipman 3/C Duke Carrillo died during a routine Physical Readiness Test (PRT). The shock was beyond words, but as word got out, the feelings only got worse. His twin brother was also at the academy, doing the same PRT. Oh, and so was the twins’ younger brother. Numb. Completely numb.
One parent shared that their Mid decided to leave the Academy and pursue another path and another parent shared that their Mid would not be graduating. They already knew they wouldn’t be commissioning due to a medical situation, but now even graduation was off the table. In between all this, the parents of the Class of 2020 tried to enjoy the ramp-up to Commissioning Week.
This past Friday, I got to work and, as is my habit, checked Facebook before delving into the mundane. One of the Academy parent pages had a message saying something about not posting until official word came from the Academy. What? What now?
I scrambled for information and found out that another Mid had passed away, found unresponsive in his room. I frantically reached out to my Mid. He responded that he was OK and he managed to call with just a brief message. “It’s bad. The whole Brigade is hurting.”
This time it was a Firstie, a football player, David Forney. He played the same position my son played on Sprint Football (left guard) and was headed to the cryptological warfare community after commissioning.
As I sat in my wife’s rehearsal room after church Sunday, I read a headline: ‘Our worst nightmare has come true’: Midshipman David Forney’s father speaks about unimaginable loss
The tears began as soon as I read the headline and I had to stop several times to get through the piece. When I finally finished it, my only thought was – I never thought I’d know a situation where the word nightmare wasn’t strong enough. But David was My Mid, too. And the story hammered it home.
As a writer, you like to think you have words for every situation. This time, I do not and I cannot pretend to have them. I have no words of comfort for David’s family. I cannot offer solace to my fellow USNA parents. I cannot relieve The Brigade of the burden placed upon the shoulders of every member.
There are no words. There is only tomorrow, which must pray will dawn with the hope of joy to come.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15