Conflicted Parents

<p>Our son recently dropped the bomb on us that he is interested in applying to the Naval Academy. He is a junior at one of the well-known New England boarding prep schools and spent this past summer achieving his Eagle rank in his Boy Scout troop. Though his dad and I appreciate many things about the BSA, we don’t care for its politics, and we believe it glorifies the military. Prior to this announcement, we had no idea our son was remotely interested in military service; we can only assume this is coming from his immersion in his troop these past months. The amount of research he has done and the level of detail about the admissions process that he has shared with us indicate that he is serious about this pursuit.</p>

<p>We don’t believe we can stop him from applying, so we’re just keeping calm and trying to understand what is really driving this choice. We are conflicted between our personal values which don’t support this decision and our desire to make sure he understands what a commitment to the military means without alienating him. We know how competitive admission is so, if he is not accepted, any angst on our part will be moot. We also see that the Naval Academy has a Summer Seminar (also competitive) that we would want him to attend if he intends to go ahead with his application in the hope that it would give him a tiny but real taste of what he would be getting into. We know that this experience might just as likely inflame his desire as quench it, but we can’t think of any better way of helping him understand what he would be signing up for.</p>

<p>I realize that the parents on this board do not share our views about the service academies and the military. I am not here to discuss our politics or our beliefs. Instead, I’m looking for advice on how to make sure our son fully understands the ramifications of what he is doing and ask if our non-support of this decision will affect his application at all. I’ve read elsewhere that there is a family interview. Can we opt out of that? Can we stay silent? Have any other parents been in this situation?</p>

<p>If this is what our son really wants to do with the next nine or so years of his life, so be it, but we want to make sure we’ve done all we can to help him understand what it really means so we can be at peace with the decision whatever the outcome rather than just desperately praying he doesn’t get accepted.</p>

<p>I’ve never heard of a family interview; when he has his interview with his liaison officer the BGO (liaison officer) will probably ask if you have any questions and so on and so forth, but aside from that, not really.</p>

<p>I suggest that you take him to visit USNA, if it’s within your means. There’s a place at USNA that is dedicated to graduates who’ve died serving their country with plaques, honor scrolls, and their names; maybe when he sees that he’ll understand the full impact that his decision has. If he can, he should talk to USNA midshipmen and graduates to ask any questions he has, and they can voice how it’s not easy. </p>

<p>My mom wasn’t thrilled when I told her I wanted to apply to USNA/go into the military, so I can understand where you are coming from. </p>

<p>Have you talked to your son about what this entails, and how it’s no small decision? Is it possible that until recently he was just maybe a little afraid to tell you he wanted to apply, since you don’t really support his decision?</p>

<p>Thanks, @CE527M. We were hoping that he’d see such a memorial as you describe if he is selected to attend the Summer Seminar but, if not, then you make an excellent suggestion about scheduling a visit. The potential for the ultimate sacrifice is what has driven most of our conversations. He does understand that he is committing to placing his life on the line, just not sure an “invicible” 16-year-old understands his mortality. We’re pretty sure he’s been thinking about this a LOT longer than he’s been talking about it.</p>


One of the reasons the application/nomination process for SAs is so arduous is that they want to be SURE that the applicants know what they are facing and that they want it very badly. Many times during the process he will be asked why he wants to be a Naval Officer and whether he understands the risks and responsibilities of that choice. In addition your son will have (if appointed) the first two years at the USNA to change his mind and walk away without obligation. If after two years he still wants this lifestyle then I would think you could be at peace with his decision.</p>

<p>@aglages: Thank you for pointing out the “grace” period. We are just learning about the academies, so we don’t have all the facts. That is certainly a comfort to know.</p>

<p>Actually those are all excellent questions and things to consider as a family, which is one great reason to be directly involved in this process. The decision to join the military (via a service academy) is a significant one for all involved. As part of the application process, your son will be assigned a BGO who will most likely visit your home to speak not only with the applicant, but also the parents. I believe that is the ‘interview’ you mentioned. You would probably be surpised to learn how many applicants will privately admit to their BGO that they are mainly applying because it what their parents want!!!</p>

<p>The BGO wants to speak to the parents to also understand their concerns and apprehensions. Those things are normal for anyone who has chosen this particular path.</p>

<p>Visit the academy (it is open to the public), have him attend a sports camp in the summer or sign up to attend NASS. Those are all great ways to see it in person and understand what you are becoming a part of. Have him talk with as many current mids as possilbe to get their inputs (both +/-) about the academy. Most are more then happy to talk with applicants and provide their perspective.</p>

<p>Read back on older posts to get a sense of the kinds of things that people are typically asking. There is nothing wrong in having concerns or reservations and this forum isn’t only frequented by the ‘gung-ho’ military types !!! No one can decide for you what is the right thing for you or your son. However, with more knowledge and background you can help him make the decision that is right for him.</p>


I’m not sure how common this is. My son’s B&G never called us or visited with us. He met my son for his interview at a coffee shop. I know of others with a similar experience.</p>

<p>^^ Perhaps it is a regional thing. Some sparsely populated areas of the country might have a BGO cover a vary large area making home visits less practical. Our experience (large metropolitan area) was that the BGO visited with every candidate they were assigned. When they did, they definitely wanted to speak to the parents as well as the applicant.</p>

<p>Thanks to all who’ve replied; I appreciate all of your input. I have been spending quite a bit of time on the USNA website and reading through the parent archives here as well as the USNA forum. One big upside of the Naval Academy for us is the quality of the undergraduate education. We certainly have no qualms there and are trying to find and focus on any positives.</p>

<p>We are definitely planning to visit the academy as much for ourselves as for our son. I can see that this is a long journey, and we are just taking those first steps.</p>

<p>Another great forum with a ton of more people is…there’re a lot of parents on there who can help you with any questions and some of whom were probably in the same boat as well as current mids who can answer questions too.</p>

<p>This is a pretty good read from Inc. magazine - [The</a> Re-Education of Jim Collins |](<a href=“]The”></p>

<p>Thanks for the link, UMDAD. DH and I just finished watching part 6 of National Geographic’s “Surviving West Point” last night which left me quite depressed. The lessons of leadership, the perspective on success vs. failure, the examples of service at the expense of self, and the contrast in happiness/purpose between students at civilian universities vs. SAs as described in the linked article has given me something more positive to think about.</p>

<p>Two kids who attended the Academy. Both were top 10% students at a top-ranked high school. Both were accepted at top-tier universities across the country. Both chose to attend NA. Im still not sure I understand why they chose to attend NA. But now that we are on-board, there is NO REGRET about how their decision to attend.</p>

<p>I suspect your son understands the ramifactions of his decision much more than you give him credit for. More likely, you need to examine your own suspicions and concern about his attendance at a NA more than his motivation. His motivation will be checked at several points along the way. Your’s will not be. </p>

<p>As a BGO, negative parental influence is not really the concern of the admissions office so much as overly-enthusiastic “encouragement” to attend. If parents are “negative” on his/her attendanc eand the student STILL wants to attend, that is more impressive than not.</p>

<p>When our oldest told us he wanted to be a Marine [compared to being in the Navy], we did not understand it. He babbled on about honor, duty, integrity of the Marines. That Marines did the right thing because it was the right thing to do, not because they were being watched. Now, several years into it, we understand . Someday, you might also.</p>

<p>Just thought I’d give an update. DS attended a camp at USNA this summer and is done with his applications (USNA/USMA), just has one more nomination interview this Saturday. He is more determined than ever to become an officer.</p>



<p>@Bill0510 (if you’re still around): In his heart, it’s always been Marines for DS for exactly the reason your oldest boy states. I have heard almost those exact words come out of our son’s mouth more than once. Three weeks ago, at one of his MOC interviews, an AF officer kept grilling him on “Why Marines?” He said he finally stared back hard at the officer and gave those words about Marine integrity and how that code resonates with him, drives him, and provides the values where he knows he’ll be at home. That answer must have sufficed because he said it finally shut down that line of inquiry and the officer moved on.</p>

<p>We’ve had a year now to learn more and to watch our son navigate this process. We are impressed and humbled but hold him close whenever we can. He comes home tomorrow for Thanksgiving break, and we will be thankful for every remaining minute we have with him knowing that our lives may change drastically this summer and our young man may owe his time to duty before parents. Given the commitment we’ve seen in him, we’re OK with that.</p>

DS was offered an appointment to West Point on Monday. Awaiting decision from USNA.

I would highly suggest he schedule overnight visits with both academies to get a different perspective. Our DS went to NASS last year and thought it was great, but when you go for the Candidate Visit Weekend at USNA or Overnight visit at USMA, you shadow a plebe and do absolutely everything with them to see what it is really like during the misery of their Freshman year. The summer experiences tend to have a bit of a PR, Hoorah! slant to them. Our DS has received appointments to both USNA and USMA and will be attending the overnight visits before making a final decision. Did your DS apply for ROTC scholarships, as well? Our DD withdrew her academy applications last year once she decided that she wanted a more “normal” college experience. She still knew she wanted to serve in the military, but opted to accept her NROTC scholarship to Notre Dame instead. She has no regrets about not going to the Academy.

Our son is scheduled for an overnight at USMA and did a sport camp at Annapolis over the summer. He has spent the past four years 3,000 miles away from home at a New England boarding school and considers his LAC-like experience there to be his “normal” college experience. He is used to routine and structure and, as a varsity athlete who competes in a three-season sport, he is also used to zero free time and little sleep. His former classmates who are now at academies tell him the only difference is that the food is a bit better and he won’t have to do his own laundry. Well, he’ll see. He will keep his EA civilian school acceptance until he’s inducted just in case of injury or anything unforeseen. I take comfort in knowing that he has two years before he makes that final commitment.

OP, I am impressed with how you are handling this situation. Admitting your concerns and opposition, but choosing to walk through this with your child anyway.

Being a new parent can be overwhelming, thinking that the colic and sleepless nights and potty training will never end. Being the parent of an emerging adult is much harder, the stakes are much higher.

Best wishes to your family.

He sounds like an amazing kid. Kudos to you for raising him, and for supporting and trying to understand him.

I appreciate your concerns about him choosing a military career. I had to let my sons go down the path of investigating service in a foreign army (dual citizenship). They did well in the preliminary, summer camp type activities, but decided it wasn’t for them. Yes, I did breathe a sigh of relief! I kept telling them I would support whatever choice they made, but as a mother I would worry. We currently live in a part of the country where many young people join the military and some of our best kids apply to service academies. There is a lot of pride, but also much worry.

@Lizardly: Yes, pride and worry, mostly worry. We know he will get a great education at either academy, but most educations don’t come with the potential for the ultimate sacrifice. I will try to save that worry for at least another four years and be quietly proud of all he has accomplished in the meantime.