Reed earns appointment to Merchant Marine Academy

For many, college is a time of fun and freedom. For Kevin Reed, it will be a time of hard work and intense preparation as he attends the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

And he's okay with that.

"It's a fun place to be from," he says. "Most people go to college to have fun for four years and work for the rest of their lives. You go to Merchant Marine to work for four years and have fun for the rest of your life."
Kevin Reed with his father John, an Air Force veteran
Reed's journey to a service academy began in earnest near the beginning of his junior year of high school; he follows in the footsteps of his cousin, who is presently a student at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and his father and grandfather, both of whom served in the military. 

Reed describes the process to gain admittance to an academy as his primary extracurricular activity over the past two years; he has no idea where even to begin to count the hours he has spent on everything from writing essays to soliciting recommendations to attending summer programs to working out in preparation for physical examinations.

Ultimately, Reed applied to four academies -- a rarity that required a lot of extra work given that each academy has its own application -- and received a congressional appointment from Rep. Joe Pitts to attend the Merchant Marine Academy and the Air Force Academy; he was then accepted at the Merchant Marine Academy, at which, although it is not necessarily where he originally thought he would land, he is happy with the opportunities that await him.

Reed shakes hands with the Chief Naval Officer at a summer
program he attended in preparation for academy life
"In kind of a short period of time I got a lot of rejection letters, so I was like why did I go through that entire process … it was upsetting," he says. "I was happy Merchant Marine was still there and available and I was able to pick it. I'm glad it worked out that way. When I was applying I was just seeing them just as academies, but now that I see what Merchant Marine has to offer, I'm glad it worked out that I'm going there."

Reed plans to major in marine engineering, one of two paths available at the academy. After graduating, he can either go into active duty with one of the branches of the military for five years, or he can stay in the naval reserves (of which he becomes a member upon attending the academy) and work in the marine engineering industry for eight years. The military will pay for additional schooling should he so desire if he adds length to his service commitment.

Applying to an academy is not something one takes lightly. Since going "all in" around the beginning of his junior year, Reed has attended three summer programs -- most notably the Coast Guard's summer AIM program, which he described essentially as a simulation of the academy's indoctrination period -- to help bolster his application credentials and prepare for the rigors he will face. During his first ten months at the academy, first year students (known as Plebes) are subject to restrictions that are meant to simulate life on the sea.

"You can call home once a week," Reed explains. "You can't leave on the weekend. It's supposed to simulate what it's like on a ship when you don't get cell reception, so I understand why it's done."

After one's first year, however, Midshipmen have access to New York City, an oasis of opportunity on weekends. The academy also has division three athletics as well as an active intramural program; Reed plans to participate in intramural basketball and flag football and has interest in exploring rugby as a club sport.

More exciting than the opportunity to visit the Big Apple or participate in athletics for Reed is the doors attending the academy will open during and after his service, which is a primary reason he chose it over pursuing engineering at a university.

"This just opens opportunities that I could pretty much go into anything I want to when I get out," he says. "You're not just an engineer; you've been in the military and attended an academy, so there's leadership potential there. It opens doors."

As Reed closed his essay for Congressman Pitts on what it means to say, "I love America": "Simply put, loving America means wanting to make America better. You can say the words, but as the saying goes, you need to 'walk the walk'. Exhibiting these values, beliefs, and characteristics [about which he had previously written -- duty, leadership, teamwork, integrity, and respect] and turning them into positive actions to make America better is the best way to say, 'I love my country.'"

After all, the motto of the Merchant Marine Academy is "acta non verba" … deeds not words.

--Benjamin Pontz, Editor-In-Chief

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