Easel on Stribling
paintings telling the story of USNA

My Annapolis Story

My Annapolis Story (In Photos)

You never forget the day you take your oath. For me, it was June 27, 2007.

 
Bancroft Hall

Plebe Summer

Walking through the doors of Alumni Hall was one of the biggest leaps of my life, and I suspect many others. I did my research, of course, but nothing can truly prepare you for military indoctrination other than diving in. Except my grandfathers stint in Korea with the Army, I had no military family, or personal training whatsoever. To say I was winging it might be an understatement... I remember having to ask a friend the difference between a tomahawk and a torpedo (I probably shouldn't admit that...)The weeks that followed were some of the most memorable of my life thus far, and I am forever grateful for the friendships built during those long days.

IMG_4846.JPG
IMG_4853.JPG
Probably my favorite photo ever. This had to be the first week of plebe summer (I didn't have my glasses yet) and that about sums up how I felt most of the time!

Probably my favorite photo ever. This had to be the first week of plebe summer (I didn't have my glasses yet) and that about sums up how I felt most of the time!

I am in the middle off to the left, and the plebe I'm standing behind is Caleb. I ended up marrying him (obviously I did not know that at the time).

I am in the middle off to the left, and the plebe I'm standing behind is Caleb. I ended up marrying him (obviously I did not know that at the time).

Plebe Year

There is a breath of relief when the "Ac" year begins, but with the slight increase in freedom comes a new set of challenges. School, sports, and oh yeah, a lot of uniform inspections, there is never downtime.

n638907839_243170_1574.jpg
I only swam a year, and skipped intramurals the rest of the time. But in all things... Beat Army. (We did).

I only swam a year, and skipped intramurals the rest of the time. But in all things... Beat Army. (We did).

The most incredible win that gave us plebes carry on for a month. I'm still surprised they didn't cancel exams.

The most incredible win that gave us plebes carry on for a month. I'm still surprised they didn't cancel exams.

Plebes got "liberty" by "sneaking" (prior approved, of course) off the yard to hang company banners the night before football games. This may have contributed to my rough season in swimming... staying up until two then waking up at 5:d0 for a 4 hour practice wasn't ideal. But it was fun!

Plebes got "liberty" by "sneaking" (prior approved, of course) off the yard to hang company banners the night before football games. This may have contributed to my rough season in swimming... staying up until two then waking up at 5:d0 for a 4 hour practice wasn't ideal. But it was fun!

n1035870073_30032708_4429.jpg
spring 08 005.jpg
The Dark Ages are a real thing.

The Dark Ages are a real thing.

Liberty.

Liberty.

Army Week (antics you get away with when on the upper floors where the OOW rarely roamed)

Army Week (antics you get away with when on the upper floors where the OOW rarely roamed)

Almost lost our Christmas leave thanks to the reindeer antlers we donned after this photo. Shore Patrol didn't care though!!!

Almost lost our Christmas leave thanks to the reindeer antlers we donned after this photo. Shore Patrol didn't care though!!!

n503414985_207091_139.jpg
Uniform of the day: Summer whites croquet

Uniform of the day: Summer whites croquet

It does eventually end!!!!

Hands down my least favorite hour at USNA.

Hands down my least favorite hour at USNA.

n501370762_1234907_1476.jpg

Herndon.

I remember Sara Barielles' "Love Song" piping through the speakers we weren't supposed to have the morning of Herndon. I will forever associate that song with freedom!

I remember Sara Barielles' "Love Song" piping through the speakers we weren't supposed to have the morning of Herndon. I will forever associate that song with freedom!

"Plebe no more!" The most glorious phrase in the English language. Our year was the first, and only (at the time of this writing), to use a female midshipman's cover. It belonged to Kristen Dickmann, one of our beloved classmates, who had passed away days prior.

"Plebe no more!" The most glorious phrase in the English language. Our year was the first, and only (at the time of this writing), to use a female midshipman's cover. It belonged to Kristen Dickmann, one of our beloved classmates, who had passed away days prior.

Average Joe Midshipman

Caleb and I were your typical "Average Joes." People who knew me in high school would probably never believe that, but there are a lot of very talented and ambitious people at USNA, and I enjoyed focusing on not falling asleep in class and just being a midshipman.  Honestly, I loved being average. I decided to stop swimming and had fun getting to know my company in countless parades and football march ons. We skipped intramurals to do our own thing, which was often taking advantage of "liberty" by going off the yard for a run. In reg PT gear, of course... and we never stopped for bread at that bakery. I made it my goal to never wear more than one stripe (of responsibility), because two or more meant you were carrying a sword, and sword practice was during my after lunch nap on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You know what? There was a lot of fun to be had wearing only one stripe!

It never occured to me there was more after plebe year. When you are in it, it can be pretty hard to see out of. However, right after Herndon, we all shipped out to the Fleet for our first round of summer cruise. The next three years were a blur, and a lot more fun (and in their own way, more stressful) than the previous. Let the adventures begin!

You never know what you are going to learn in the Navy.

You never know what you are going to learn in the Navy.

One awesome opportunity to march in the 2009 inauguration parade for President Obama. Waiting three hours to start walking in plastic shoes when it was 20 degrees outside was the coldest I have ever been. "I'm not going to let you guys look like a bunch of dufuses wearing earmuffs." - O-Rep  (I'd rather look like the dufus.)

One awesome opportunity to march in the 2009 inauguration parade for President Obama. Waiting three hours to start walking in plastic shoes when it was 20 degrees outside was the coldest I have ever been. "I'm not going to let you guys look like a bunch of dufuses wearing earmuffs." - O-Rep

(I'd rather look like the dufus.)

Seriously. You never know what  you will learn in the Navy!

Seriously. You never know what  you will learn in the Navy!

We had *just* started dating... Would keep it secret for another few months, and eventually it became official with the "love chit." I think we've passed the statute of limitations on forbidden relationships so I can publicly admit that now :) I'm laughing at how skinny Caleb is in this picture. I had just quit swimming and was running a lot to deal with all that free time. I grew out of that eventually :) He introduced me to weightlifting which suited us both better.

We had *just* started dating... Would keep it secret for another few months, and eventually it became official with the "love chit." I think we've passed the statute of limitations on forbidden relationships so I can publicly admit that now :) I'm laughing at how skinny Caleb is in this picture. I had just quit swimming and was running a lot to deal with all that free time. I grew out of that eventually :) He introduced me to weightlifting which suited us both better.

30 minutes of summer training made the rest of the Academy worth it!!!

30 minutes of summer training made the rest of the Academy worth it!!!

This was 2009. They said *maybe* by the end of our 20 year careers, we would see women on subs. The first women showed up a  year later! Pretty awesome, and I'm lucky to be friends with some of those pioneers.

This was 2009. They said *maybe* by the end of our 20 year careers, we would see women on subs. The first women showed up a  year later! Pretty awesome, and I'm lucky to be friends with some of those pioneers.

The week I learned the Marines weren't for me. They do have some fun toys though! I just don't like dirt... or bugs.

The week I learned the Marines weren't for me. They do have some fun toys though! I just don't like dirt... or bugs.

Ring Dance

Ring Dance

n680437238_1099287_9005.jpg
One of the cooler opportunities I was blessed to take part in. Responding to the right email at the right time, a month later I found myself on top of the mast of a Swedish tallship.

One of the cooler opportunities I was blessed to take part in. Responding to the right email at the right time, a month later I found myself on top of the mast of a Swedish tallship.

Youngster fun and hospital corners.

Youngster fun and hospital corners.

Getting tired of taking pictures at Ring Dance.

Getting tired of taking pictures at Ring Dance.

Yeah, so this happened. I had told Caleb I did not want to be "that person" who got engaged in college (with subsequently a June Week wedding). I, in fact, was "that person." In retrospect I'm so glad he did it when he did!

Yeah, so this happened. I had told Caleb I did not want to be "that person" who got engaged in college (with subsequently a June Week wedding). I, in fact, was "that person." In retrospect I'm so glad he did it when he did!

Testing out the ship we made for our capstone project. The Naval Arch labs were awesome!

Testing out the ship we made for our capstone project. The Naval Arch labs were awesome!

We had a great time (Winning) in Southbend!

We had a great time (Winning) in Southbend!

Just a few of the girls of 24th company on Service Selection day.

Just a few of the girls of 24th company on Service Selection day.

Haircuts (and eyebrow shaves, for the spec ops guys) on Service Selection day!

Haircuts (and eyebrow shaves, for the spec ops guys) on Service Selection day!

Naval Architecture, class of 2011.  A tiny major and most of our classes were in the same room. I got there late the first day and subsequnently sat in the same awkward seat for the next 3 years :)

Naval Architecture, class of 2011.  A tiny major and most of our classes were in the same room. I got there late the first day and subsequnently sat in the same awkward seat for the next 3 years :)

The one night it was COOL to be a SWO!

The one night it was COOL to be a SWO!

Commissioning

You are continually reminded by some poor plebe exactly how many days are left until graduation. When it finally came, it was surreal, and truly wonderful. Just like the cover toss, immediately following that day, we were all scattered. Everywhere. It may be three years later and I see a classmate in the gym in Bahrain. My dear classmate, Kevin T, said at our five year reunion, "What I'd give to just go back for one day, to walk in the halls and say hello to everyone." I'd give a lot to go back for a day.

graduation.jpg
Sponsor families are the best. Ann of Annapolis... she drove us back at 2354 (plenty of time when Ann is behind the wheel) and let tons of mids crash on her floor and play in her kitchen.

Sponsor families are the best. Ann of Annapolis... she drove us back at 2354 (plenty of time when Ann is behind the wheel) and let tons of mids crash on her floor and play in her kitchen.

I wish I had a photo of the entire family, but these are just a few of the wonderful people who took Caleb and I in!!

I wish I had a photo of the entire family, but these are just a few of the wonderful people who took Caleb and I in!!

Surrounded by our biggest support group. We love you mom and dad, ma and pa !

Surrounded by our biggest support group. We love you mom and dad, ma and pa !

 

 

The rest of the story

 

Two weeks later, getting married in Jacksonville, FL to the love and rock of my life. Shortly thereafter, we reported to our first and second ships, deployed four times,  eventually moving back to Jacksonville and while on shore duty, had our first child, Eleanor. We are both out of the Navy now, but will forever cherish the memories in our hearts. Go Navy, Beat Army!

(Jenn Hopkins Photography)

(Jenn Hopkins Photography)

Dana Goodson Photography

Dana Goodson Photography

A surprise visit to the Churchill's starboard helo hangar a few months into a long year apart from one another

A surprise visit to the Churchill's starboard helo hangar a few months into a long year apart from one another

The Conn  ordered, "Left standard rudder, steady on course 184" and I was only a pier away from the most incredible welcome home.

The Conn  ordered, "Left standard rudder, steady on course 184" and I was only a pier away from the most incredible welcome home.

And sweet Eleanor. May this adventure be even more amazing than the last.  Appleseed Photography

And sweet Eleanor. May this adventure be even more amazing than the last.

Appleseed Photography

Oh, look!! Another one :) Introducing John Bode. Who knows. Maybe in 16-18 years we will be going up to Annapolis again... but as parents this time!!  (Jenn Hopkins Photography)

Oh, look!! Another one :) Introducing John Bode. Who knows. Maybe in 16-18 years we will be going up to Annapolis again... but as parents this time!!  (Jenn Hopkins Photography)