story & photo
by COL Bruce W. Falcone, (USAR, Retired)
The drought is over for Saint Bernard grads receiving appointments to U.S Service Academies. Not just one, but both the number one and two seniors have appointments to two of the elusive institutions. Faith Hoffman and Katherine Brown have offers from West Point and The Naval Academy, respectively.
Faith, the daughter of Marlin and Gina Hoffman, Westerly, already officially accepted the offer to be part of “The Long Gray Line” at West Point this fall. Katherine, the daughter of Tom and Kathy Brown, Mystic. has not yet officially accepted the trip to Annapolis, but is admittedly leaning in that direction.
Faith’s father, a former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, and mother, a former Army Nurse, are understandably proud of their only daughter’s decision to pursue an education at a Military Academy. “We didn’t think she was serious at first, but she kept pursuing it until it became a reality,” said both Marlin and Gina. Both agree that Faith will do well. “She’s a great organizer and a little outspoken like her mother,” said Gina.
Katherine’s parents had mixed emotions when they learned that their daughter had applied to Annapolis. “It came as a surprise and my first reaction was no,” said Cathy. “But as time marched on, we realized that Katherine had thought through the reasons and we now are fully supportive,” said both Tom and Cathy. “We trust her judgment.” Neither of Katherine’s parents are former military, but her grandfather is an Air Force veteran.
The girls’ resumes are almost mirror images of each other. Both are student athletes, class officers and are enrolled in advanced placement courses such as biology, physics, English and history. Katherine, captain of the soccer and lacrosse teams, is also a member of the student council, ambassador club, public speaking club, mock trial club and several others. Faith, captain of the cheerleading team and lacrosse player, is a member of many of the same clubs as her classmate. Katherine also applied to Harvard, Notre Dame and Georgetown and has to notify The Naval Academy by May 1st. Faith, on the other hand, applied only to West Point.
As their resumes are near identical, their reasons for pursuing a military education are also similar. “I didn’t even know West Point was a place until I got into high school,” said Faith. “I would absolutely consider a career in the Army, maybe as a Military Intelligence or a Foreign Service Officer… Med School is not out of the question, either,” she said. Katherine said she would also consider the military as a career. “I am even considering the Marine Corps,” she said. Katherine’s parents would like to see her pursue a career in military aviation. Although their paths are slightly different, both girls agree that an education at a Service Academy is of high quality. “I like the idea of the leadership training and the opportunity to experience different languages and cultures,” said Katherine. Faith reflects many of the same sentiments. “I also like the idea of the leadership training and the many options that are available to you at a service academy,” she said.
Both girls have been going to school together since 6th grade at Saint Bernard’s and are best of friends. The girls agree it would be nice if they were both at military academies so they could share experiences. They both attended summer seminars at West Point and Annapolis. “The time at West Point this past summer absolutely sealed the deal for me,” said Faith. “It was a great experience and I knew immediately that it was my dream.” Katherine also enjoyed the seminar at Annapolis. “It was great to meet so many outstanding people there and that’s the real reason I am leaning toward the Naval Academy.”
Most of their classmates at Saint Bernard’s are supportive and excited… some even melancholy that they won’t be going to many of the same colleges with each other. Jim Vendetto, Dean of Students, also expressed his elation and support for the girls. “These are quality kids that come from great families and I have no doubt they will do well,” he said. He also said that there were several other students that could have been accepted but did not apply.
Although uniforms are nothing new to the girls, there is a distinct difference between the gray tunics at West Point and the “choke collar” whites of the Naval Academy and what they represent. Although they are best of friends and both could be wearing uniforms this coming year, I look forward to seeing how “friendly” they are at next year’s Army – Navy football game.