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Freedom

I took an unexpected break from the blog last week, spending my "blog night" preparing remarks for the retirement of a Coast Guardsman who served as my facility engineer at the Coast Guard Academy.  He asked me to be his guest speaker, and I enjoyed seeing old friends, and making sure CDR Scott Gesele retired with the same respect, dignity, and professionalism with which he served.

From there, Betsy and I drove north to see all three of our grandchildren, and celebrate my daughter's birthday, taking time on Sunday for a "good old fashioned" Easter egg hunt, which appeared much more competitive than I remember as a child.  It brought great joy to have a special time with John Thomas, Emily Grace, and James Scott, looking into their eyes and reminding them how blessed they are to be loved by so many.

We've seen every kind of weather this week...rain, sun, spring warmth, and freezing cold...but the campus is transforming...and giving us glimpses of how beautiful it will be by the May Board of Trustee meetings and Alumni Weekend.  We are looking forward to celebrating Honorary Alumni Awards, a Distinguished Alumnus, and the 50th reunion for the Class of 1964.  It will be an exciting weekend...action packed.

Of course this is Easter [leave] weekend, a special time of renewal and rebirth...a time to reflect on the essence of Christianity...and the hope, grace, and forgiveness we can learn from a life well lived.  Many look forward to spending time with family, and only a small percentage of our cadets [who live too far away] will remain on campus.

This morning at Chapel, Josh Davis, an Olympic swimmer who won three gold medals for the USA in 1996 and two silver medals in 2000, gave a very personal and powerful message to all of us about faith and making good choices.  He said that a good coach or mentor believes in you, encourages you, and gives you truth.  They give you skill, motivation, and love...

What I most enjoyed was his definition of freedom.  He said that many believe freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, with whoever you want, when you want; yet he defined true freedom as the ability to do the right thing whenever you want regardless of what anyone else is doing around you.

His message was filled with energy, passion, and terrific advice on allowing God to be our coach, and he encouraged us to heed the advice provided in scripture.  This way we can live our lives with true freedom...free from the many worldly influences that block us from reaching our full potential.  More information about Josh Davis can be found at http://www.joshdavis.com/.

Earlier this week we were visited by two members from the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund, which was established in 1941 by Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Keesee of Martinsville, Virginia, for the purpose of aiding worthy men and women to obtain an education.  The Board's generosity has allowed over twenty cadets to receive scholarships of between $2,500 and $5,000.  We enjoy our relationship and having their board members visit to learn more about Fork Union Military Academy. 

We spoke at length about the school's past and its future, attended Tuesday's Chapel service, enjoyed a delicious lunch (with two cadets) at Careby Hall, then they had a cadet-led tour, and I answered some final questions.  The visit provided direct interaction with three of the scholarship recipients, and put a face on their gift of education.  It was clear that we share a passion for open access to quality private education, and an interest in providing values-based education that builds character in tomorrow's leaders.

I was encouraged that over 60 cadets plan to attend our annual Military Ball on April 26th.  With dates, there will be over 120 young people attending, all in their most formal attire.  This year the event will return to Thomas Gym with a live professional DJ (an alumnus) and the seniors will attend free, thanks to a productive cadet-led Social Center enterprise that sold popcorn, treats, and soft drinks throughout the school year.  The seniors will enter through a traditional arch of sabres.

This year we will be starting a new tradition.  On May 7th we've invited all the seniors and postgraduates to wear a shirt that represents the college they've chosen to attend.  There is still debate on whether the staff should join in by wearing shirts representing their alma mater, but this day will be another incentive for our underclassmen to achieve their goal of college acceptance at the school of their dreams (or their budget).  There are some special colors I'll be looking for...but any color representing college acceptance will be cherished.

Last weekend we hosted Eddie George as the Annual Gus Lacy Track Meet guest of honor.  It is always wonderful to have him back on campus...and from the pictures on social media, it looked like cadets and competitors alike welcomed him with enthusiasm.  Eddie George is also the newest member of our Board of Trustees, and we look forward to having him be an important force in the future of Fork Union Military Academy.

That same Saturday FUMA won 1st place in the High School Division at our Annual Chess Open.  Cadet Kang was our leader with 3 out of 4 wins.  Please see the picture below:

One of my highlights this week was not my annual physical, but was an interview by the 7th grade Drama Class.  They asked me several questions while being videotaped.  The questions ranged from "Why did you join the Coast Guard?" to "If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?" to "Who had the most influence on your life?"

Someday we may publish the entire interview, but I'll close by answering the "influence" question.  I answered that it was my mother.  She taught me to work hard, be nice to those around me, and she prepared me for independence.  I learned today that my mother also taught me to be free.

Only 122 days until Cadet Officers report for the 2014-2015 Academy Year, 134 days until classes begin, and 36 days to this year's Upper School Commencement, and 34 days to the MS graduation. 

Go FUMA!

Fork Union Alumnus Eddie George to be Honored at Gus Lacy Track Classic

Eddie George at FUMA in 1991.The Gus Lacy Track Classic will take place this Saturday, April 12, 2014, beginning at 9:00am at Fork Union Military Academy.  This is one of the biggest track events of the year and this year’s event will be no exception, featuring more than twenty high school teams from across the state. Each year Head Coach Winston Brown chooses a former FUMA Track Athlete to honor at the meet and this year’s honoree will be Eddie George, former Tennessee Titans running back.

This will be George's third return to the campus in recent years. He was inducted into the FUMA Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He also participated in the production of an NFL Films feature about the Academy on campus in October 2006. But his time on campus may be increasing in the coming years, as he has accepted a position as the Academy's newest member of the Board of Trustees. His term on the board will begin July 1, 2014.

Academy President, RADM J. Scott Burhoe, said of George's return and his selection as a Trustee, "We are pleased by his interest in 'giving back' by helping us educate, develop, and inspire the next generation of young men who will lead with character."

George attended Fork Union Military Academy from 1989 to 1992 where he was a standout in sports, in the Corps of Cadets, and in the classroom.  Although football was always his athletic focus, it was in track that George made his breakthrough as a premier athlete. In three years, Eddie hardly lost a race eventually winning two State Championships in the 300m hurdles and one in the 4x400 relay.

Middle School Orienteering Wins Championship

Fork Union Military Academy Middle School Orienteering Team Wins Eastern States Championship

In Orienteering news this weekend, the Fork Union Military Academy Middle School team captured the Eastern States Championships on Friday, April 4th. Julian Yescas led the way with a blazing time to win an individual gold medal. Jared Giszack added a bronze and Thomas Snow was right behind him. David Muench and Blake Chiovaro rounded out the team.

At the Varsity level, Will Phillips' 3rd place spearheaded a second place finish for the FUMA varsity team. The rest of the team was comprised of Colin Beverage, Brad Chiovaro, Zimu Li, and Ben Chiovaro.

Academic Team Competes in Physics Olympics

Academic Team from Fork Union Military Academy competed in the Physics Olympics

On Saturday, April 5th, the Fork Union Military Academy's Academic Team travelled to the University of Richmond to compete in the 10th Annual Physics Olympics. Several dozen teams from other high schools around the region had a fun day of working to solve six specific Physics Challenges. The Fork Union team won 6th Place overall in the competition. Team coaches, COL Todd Giszack and COL Steve Macek, expressed pride in their team following the event, noting that the squad has a bright future, with several young team members. Of the seven cadets who travelled to this event, two were seniors, one was a sophomore, and four were freshmen. Team members were: Dalton Fowler, Micah Giszack, Graham Luongo, George Oscar, Scott Bradley, Colman Hoyt, and Walker Lander. Photos from the event can be found at: http://photos.forkunion.com/Other-2/April-2014/Physics-Olympics/38317552_bR46Kh.

Great Joy

Every opportunity to interact with cadets brings me great joy.  Not every interaction is equally pleasant, for me or the student, but each opportunity is a reason to rejoice, and magnifies my sense of purpose.  With the upcoming decennial reaccreditation (the visit is just one year away), master planning in full swing, studying the feasibility of a campaign to increase the breadth and scope of our access scholarships, and a variety of leadership opportunities on boards and associations, there is a pull to spend time on "more strategic" matters.  My body, mind, and spirit though, and the most rewarding part of my job, will always center on the individual cadet experience.

My workday ended by watching the Prep Lacrosse team handily defeat the Miller School, just two days after a victory over Benedictine.  The day after the Benedictine win I had a voicemail from a gentleman whose bad timing put him behind the entire team as he entered McDonald's to pick up dinner for he and his wife.  He was impressed by the demeanor and maturity of our team, and called to tell me that the team decided that he should go to the head of the line...so he wouldn't be late getting home with dinner.

This morning I received an email from the mother of a visiting middle school lacrosse player, who shared that she was impressed by the hospitality and good manners of a small group of 9th and 10th grade cadets.  She said "it is infrequent that a group of students would strike up a conversation with visiting spectators and parents, and I wanted to commend you on having such a fine group of young men - all of them - nearly a dozen who had stopped to support the team were friendly and welcoming."  What a great way to start my day...

Just before leaving my office for the lacrosse game, COL Chris Nothnagle brought a member of our Woodworking Club, Cadet Rodriquez, by my office to show off a project he'd completed.  He created a wooden bowl, blending cherry and mahogany...a gift for his mother.  Betsy stopped by at the same time (to get me out of the office and to the sporting events) and we both told this young man just how much his mother was going to love the gift.

I also learned this week that one of our cadets earned his Eagle Scout rank...congratulations to Cadet Aaron Pekala who passed his Board of Review, and will soon receive his Court of Honor.  Becoming an Eagle Scout in April of 1969 is one of my proudest achievements...certainly laying the groundwork for the work to follow. 

I told a few people this week that the many challenges and opportunities here have led me to read from two different "daily devotionals" in addition to the scripture reading I receive by email each morning from www.biblegateway.com.  One of the readings happened to include the Parable of the Talents.  I used this story when speaking with a young cadet I will call Isaiah earlier this week.

This young man is bright, a gifted athlete, and has a biblical name.  An expression I've used often is that "to those who much is given, much is expected."  God wants us to use all our talents...and those who have more talent must give back even more...just as Jesus shared in this parable.  The parable suggests that failure to use one's gifts could result in judgment, but it seems to me that it just makes sense that if one is provided gifts, they should never remain in darkness, but be nurtured and brought fully into the light. 

I did my best to convince this young man to make full use of all the gifts available to him...encouraging him to allow Fork Union Military Academy to do what it does best, which is to build character and teach leadership in a setting that encourages mental, physical, and spiritual growth.  Our system works best when the cadets acknowledge and accept its value, and give their all.

The good weather brought with it increased military drill, and the issuing of demilitarized M-1's for the upcoming parades.  Military drill teaches teamwork, leadership, followership, precision, pride, and even patience.  I've always enjoyed parades, and the Sunday pass-in-reviews exemplify the military character of our school, and illustrate the simplicity of chain of command and accountability.  My son recently sent me a copy of a picture that used to hang in his room, that he passed along to his son...the challenge is that now I need to tell James Scott the names of all those marching with me.

The picture brought back great memories of full honors ceremonies on the White House lawn during the President Carter administration, and I post it here as proof that I actually did my share of parades and ceremonies, earning the privilege of now watching and reviewing.  It is indeed an honor to officiate at each review, whether here at Fork Union, or each Friday afternoon at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

This week brought many opportunities to mentor cadets, and it was refreshing to see what a little warmth and sunshine did to bring smiles to their faces.  Chaplain Benson walked around the campus on Monday afternoon taking pictures...and showed them during Chapel services on Tuesday, entitling his message "Think about living life like someone is pointing a camera at you."

His point, which was evident in each picture, was that when a camera points toward us we typically smile, and want to look and act our very best.  He suggested that God has a camera on us all the time...

As much as the cadets bring me joy, this school is also blessed with fine faculty, staff, and administrators.  In an upcoming blog, I will feature those who are electing to retire this year, which looks to be a year of transition.  We'll bring in good people, and there is significant interest by many who embrace our mission of educating, developing, and inspiring young men to lead with character.  I will close the blog with excerpts from one of the retirement letters:

"I have loved this school since the first time I came here...I could not have had a better place to raise my children and spend [many] years employed.  I have made the dearest and best friends here, both faculty and staff and cadets, past and present.  I have met people here who some would only dream of meeting.

I have seen young boys come through the gates and leave as men.  FUMA not only instills high standards for its students, but also for its employees.  I know that I am a better person for having been a part of this great school for so many years.

I want to leave knowing I did my best and hoping that I may have made a difference along the way.  I think that is the way everyone should leave.  I pray that the future of FUMA is bright and that it will flourish in the coming years."

Go FUMA!

Resilience, Tenacity, Grit

Today marked another "first" for Fork Union Military Academy.  I proudly presented a Presidential Unit Award to the Corps of Cadets, faculty, staff, and administrators.  There is more information on our website at the following link:

Presidential Unit Award

Many experts believe that to be truly successful, resilience, tenacity, and grit are essential.  I've been impressed by the abundance of these characteristics in our cadets this winter. 

On Wednesday Cadet Lieutenant Paul Webb, a senior in his third year at Fork Union, stopped by my office to share a poem he'd written.  I love poetry, and another staff member encouraged him to share the poem with me.  It describes the school from the eyes of a graduating senior...and he told me I could publish the poem in my blog.  Completely unedited by me, many will be able to relate to his perspective:

Place of Happy and of Sad

His poem speaks of the strong bonds and relationships formed here that last a lifetime...we are (of course) working hard on having cadets appreciate the value of the experience earlier in the journey.  One of the purposes behind today's unit award was to have each young man understand that struggle is necessary for growth.  Character is revealed (and learned) when life is lived to its fullest, not when we seek comfort and ease.

Our Annual Phone-a-thon was in full swing last week and this week.  Our cadets were quite successful in helping us raise our goal of $100,000 to help make up the difference between tuition and what it "really" costs us to educate, develop, and inspire cadets.  Many alumni expressed concern that cadets missed some of their CQ (Call to Quarters [study time]) in order to make calls.  We were very selective in choosing the cadets...so I can guarantee that they studied enough to be well prepared for their classes and college.

I was on the phone a great deal myself this week, checking with the Class of 1964 about 50 year reunion plans, following up with members of our Board of Trustees as we make final preparations for our semi-annual meeting in May, and had a wonderful conversation with the spouse of a graduate who told me fascinating stories about her late husband, saying that he once told her that next to marrying her, attending Fork Union Military Academy "was the best decision he ever made." 

As many of you are aware, we made a decision earlier this year to convert our indoor range and rifle team to a .177cal air rifle team and range.  We are selling our rifles to a licensed and trusted company who will provide us with ten Crosman Challenger PCP air rifles for competitive use by the FUMA Rifle Team, along with a check for the remainder.  The Crosman Challenger rifles are the choice of many JROTC teams around the country, and we are excited to have these rifles for use by our Rifle Team cadets.

In addition, FUMA was recently approved for an NRA grant, with the intent to make marksmanship and gun safety available to all FUMA cadets.  Monies from this grant have been used to purchase ten (10) Diana RWS 34 Panther rifles, a steel gun cabinet, 5,000 targets, and 7,500 lead-free pellets for general use by the Corps of Cadets.

This is a large step forward in environmental and financial sustainability, plus we will be able to offer another activity to all cadets, not just those members of the rifle team.  As a young man I learned gun safety and marksmanship, and believe this aided in learning responsibility and concentration.  I would like us to offer the same advantage to all cadets here who have this interest...and we may find young men who have a gift for marksmanship they hadn't previously discovered.

As a young man I also attended basketball camp.  It helped me realize that basketball was not one of my gifts, but could still be fun.  It helped my friends become competitive high school players who continued to play in college.  Fork Union is hosting a basketball school this summer, and I encourage everyone to attend this wonderful experience...Coach Arritt will still have a hand in making sure we teach what needs to be taught.  A copy of the brochure may be found here.

One of my highlights this week was sitting down with four cadet leaders, all juniors in our Upper School, who attended the United States Air Force Academy National Character and Leadership Symposium.  I was interested in hearing what they'd learned, and how it was shaping their own leadership now that they were back at school.  The conversation became exciting as we talked about next year.  After all, with only 57 days remaining in the 2013-2014 Academic Year, it is time to start planning for next year.

It was clear from my interaction that next year will indeed be our "best ever" as we have many fine young men to fill student leadership position.  Next year we'll work overtime to improve the overall experience, while doing our best not to take away from the challenges that demand resiliency, tenacity, and grit...the kind of struggle necessary for learning, and for building character that is necessary to lead others in tomorrow's world.

I'll end this blog (sorry Mom...I know it was too long again) with another of Cadet Ro's prayers:

"Dear Living Father God.  In these last two months of school, help us to become men of respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline; and let us leave our bad habits and build strong, good habits so that people may see the change that you have made in our lives through Fork Union Military Academy and everything in it.  Amen"

Go Character!  Go Leadership! Go FUMA!