Lessons Unexpected

October 21, 2008
By Brady Dilena, Culver, IN

“Goddamnit Dilena, March that corner! Get in step! And why the hell are you looking around?” Spit from the high ranking cadet splatters on my face. His face is reddened with anger and excitement. It’s his turn to torture the new kids. The hallway of the barracks seems endless and the disorientation unsettles me. I can’t look around at the other new cadets around me, but I can sense their fear is as strong as my own. I am directed into a dark room with military officials standing at the back with swords at their side. The plebes shuffle in and form a column. “Welcome to the Culver Military Academy Black Horse Troop, if you ever want to be a part of this unit, you will earn it.” I shudder as it occurs to me that this will be my life for the next three years. At that moment, I wonder how I got this far. Why did I leave my amazing life in sunny California for a military school in the middle of cornfield Indiana?
Your first reaction may be, “I wonder what he did?”-as is the reaction of most people. In fact, not only did I choose to attend Culver Military Academy, I had to work hard to convince my parents to allow me to go. It would have been hard to imagine what sophomore year would be like but I now strongly believe that it was one of the best choices I have ever made. How could I know that the lack of sleep, impossible academic workload, constant slave labor, and almost inhumane treatment would actually teach me something?
To people who can’t understand exactly what military school is like, I would describe the experience as the most rewarding accomplishment I have ever done. The very fact that I passed my “plebe” or new cadet year still astonishes me today. From the constant discouraging inspection failures, to the painful required memorization of seemingly pointless paragraphs on top of my academic load, time passed like a seemingly endless flight when you have no entertainment. And that’s what it was, it was a flight from my youth to my adult self. I am now proud to call myself a Culver cavalry cadet.
If I had been asked as a freshman what leadership was I would probably say that it’s just that, having the ability to persuade people to accomplish a unified goal. I had been a class leader in elementary school and on the sports field, but Culver taught me the true meaning. Not many people my age can say they have a level of respect from their peers to the degree that I have experienced. When you have the pride and inspiration in a unified goal that you can give an order to rally the troops to wake up early on a freezing Indiana morning and march to the riding hall for practice, that is leadership.
It is with this leadership that now, in my senior year, and with the rank of platoon leader, that I encourage my peers to march. But it’s not for me, and it’s not for the unit. It’s for the tradition that we have been building for over 100 years. The world famous Culver Black Horse Troop rides in the presidential inaugural parade, and for this we add considerable stress, give up our free time, and work to win all competitions. When I look into the eyes of a troop alumnus, who was in my shoes 50 years ago, I will immediately connect with him and no feeling in the world is as great as that satisfaction, making a connection of pride across the generations.
Almost overnight I changed from a timid young freshman who couldn’t lead his laundry into his closet, into a confident outgoing senior whose every decision affects the lives of many. In hindsight, I took a huge risk. I knew no one at Culver and knew only what I saw during my visit and on the website. Not only have I thrived in the midst of this challenging lifestyle, but I have learned to enjoy it. Earning my place in my unit is the fulfillment, and even more ironic is that the very high ranking cadet who harassed and yelled at me on the first day is now my best friend and roommate.

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This article has 12 comments.

Mic49 said...
on Nov. 14 2008 at 10:38 pm
Very nicely written indeed. The first few sentences are full of impact and set the scene well. They immediately made me read on. You nicely track your emotions throughout and entwine uncertainty, doubt and reservation with external criticism and hesitation. You then lead the reader to your inner thoughts. I too enjoyed the metaphore regarding laundry; very nicely phrased. I would, however, contend the criticism from "msg"; accomplishments are indeed not 'done', but I'm afraid niether are they 'made'; they are 'achieved'. This seems to be the case, not only with your time at the Academy but also with your essay. I also suppose that while you feel irony about very high ranking cadet who harassed and yelled; I would contend that what has been now been achieved with him is true sign of "esprit du corps" Well done, on all accounts.

nick s. said...
on Nov. 13 2008 at 10:44 pm
i'm brady's room mate, nick. I said those things. . and im proud of it! if he makes it big. . i want some profit out of it!

on Nov. 13 2008 at 5:20 pm
Brady, Michael and I read your piece--great work! We loved reading about your experiences, so different and so far from home. Congratulations on your accomplishments!

neoslyde said...
on Nov. 13 2008 at 4:02 am
I enjoyed your article. It was well written and I sensed a heartfelt sincerity in your words. I look forward to hearing more of your progress and accomplishments. Keep up the good work.

jd said...
on Nov. 12 2008 at 4:38 pm
Great story. The author portrayed the information in a manner that allowed you to feel the pain, enjoyment and life long lessons endured during this wonderful impressionary time of high school years. March on and enjoy as you will remember these days for the rest of your life.

Trevona said...
on Nov. 12 2008 at 2:22 pm
Brady's article is very interesting, frank and useful. The experience has obviously done him a lot of good. His comments are well written.

Csquared2279 said...
on Nov. 12 2008 at 1:09 am
This essay was phenomenal -Caroline

Ellie S. said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 10:38 pm
Brady-Your story was wonderful and so heart felt. Being at Culver it not always easy because it challenges you to your limits. But somehow you find the inner strength to overcome your weaknesses and strive to your future. I am proud of you! keep up the good work.

England123 said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 9:28 pm
What a splendid article Brady. Beautifully written and well expressed. I remember sewing the badges onto your uniform, with your mother, before you left California for Culver!

mrsg said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 9:00 pm
Great detail; beginning with the startling direct quotation engages the reader immediately; the "voice" of the author comes through clearly; I love the line: "young freshman who couldn't lead laundry into his closet"-fabulous image Some suggestions: It might be a good idea to reread your work aloud to catch unnecessary repetition that, if eliminated, would make your sentences stronger-for example:"...dark room WITH military officials standing at the back WITH swords at their sides..." Better: "...standing at the back, swords at their sides..." Other examples of unnecessary repetition: "seemingly pointless paragraphs" "seemingly endless flights" "I will immediately connect with him..." "making a connection..." Look for others as you polish this piece. Little errors: one doesn't "do" an accomplishment, one "makes" it. Better still, use the verb "accomplish" In general, Brady, this essay makes your experiences come alive with vivid description, honest emotion and some nice flow to the writing. You obviously must have had some wonderful English teachers!!! All my best.

Brigid said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 8:47 pm
Well done Brady! I did think you had gone off your rocker when I heard your mother tell me about the school, but I now know how it helped shape the wonderful confident selfless young man you are today! Love, Brigid

on Nov. 11 2008 at 8:14 pm
What a fabulous essay! I love the way you bring it full circle at the end! You and your parents must be very proud!


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