JEL INEK JOURNAL
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COMRADE MEMORIES Reliving My First and Last Days at West Point
I’ll never forget my first day at West Point. Since I had attended the school’s preparatory academy the year before, I knew the proper way to put on my uniform, shine my shoes, and do other tasks that seem minor until someone is screaming in your face about it every 30 seconds.
same February day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, I’m happy to keep my memories where they are.
Evidently, my roommates weren’t clued in on this phenomenon.
To this day, I can still see the shock on their faces. As their eyes bugged further out of their heads, they continued to get screamed at. It was a whole new world — admittedly, even for me — and no amount of preparation can get you ready for the mental and physical breakdown the school puts you through, forcing you to work together as a team and limit your individuality. You’ve been picked for a school that only selects the cream of the crop, and suddenly you’re one among many others just like you. I imagine this is one of the West Point employees’ favorite times of year because they get to rip into squeamish, unprepared freshmen. As for the cadets, their best day comes a few years later on graduation day. Every West Point cadet looks forward to their graduation, and I certainly remember mine. You spend five grueling years in a complex relationship with your studies, loving them one minute and hating them the next. But then, the day comes when you get to dress in your best and be dismissed for the last time. I would love to relive that day again and feel the hype, soak in the last moments with the brothers I had gained, and experience the optimism I felt on graduation day. (It wouldn’t hurt to be that young again, either.) But memories are meant to be memories. Reliving my West Point graduation would be cool to do every once in a while, but if I had to repeat it ala Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” I’d probably lose my mind. Considering that movie buffs and the director of the 1993 film speculate that Murray’s character, Phil Connors, spent 30–40 years stuck in the
Granted, I like to think my military
training would have prepared me better than a weatherman from Philadelphia would be for an endless loop of days
trapped in a little town. That being said, what guy hasn’t wished he had a do-over with a girl after saying something stupid? I think we can all agree that aspect of Connors’ endless years in Punxsutawney is something we sometimes crave. In a way, too, I get to keep my West Point memories close with every year that passes. Readers will remember that my wife and I host a yearly Army vs. Navy football game viewing party, where we invite all my former classmates and even a few of our “token squid friends.” In years past, my father’s classmates have also attended this event, and we often have alumni from other years join us as well. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met before; the moment you meet another West Point alumnus, you have something in common with them. It’s a bond no one else understands. Unlike Phil Connors, at least we have someone to share in our misery.
— Dr. H. Charles Jelinek, Jr., DDS
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