An officer and a gentleman, but don’t forget about a triathlete

January 6th, 2011

An officer and a gentleman. And triathlete.

It’s funny how things work out and even stranger where we end up.  Let’s take a moment to travel back to one morning in 6th grade while I was waiting for school to start.  I was watching a television program called Channel One, a news program tailored to young adults in middle and high school.

This particular program had a piece on the United States Military Academy located at West Point, a small Army post located on the Hudson River in New York.  “West Point!,” I said,  “Who would want to go there?” speaking sarcastically to one of my friends watching, too.

At that time, although my father and his father had gone to the Citadel, another prestigious military academy, in South Carolina, I had no interest in going into the military, and especially to a college where they wore ridiculous Wizard of Oz.  Not that I was even thinking about college at that time, more like what kind of mischief I was going to get into or how I was going to impress Maddy, the most beautiful girl in my mind who I had a young school boy crush on.

Five years later going into my sophomore  year in high school, still with that crush except now starting to think a little about which college that I might want to go to; however, still no thought to go anywhere near the military.  It was not until my senior year when the military even came across my radar, although, only because of cross country and track and the bizarre idea that I wanted to train at elevation, possibly in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy. My world in high school was running, not only because I fell in love with it but also because I believed that I could take it as far as I wanted, as a career.

Nicholas running cross country in high school.

Among many great values that my parents instilled in me at an early age, one of the most valuable was a behavior: that if I truly believed in something and did the work, then I could accomplish it.  To this day I still believe that and thank my parents for their endless support to make me the man who I am.

But anyway, after the whole process of getting a congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy, taking the SAT, spending countless hours studying to make straight A’s, and doing many extracurricular activities, I somehow found myself with an appointment to West Point in the summer of 05, and signing a document saying that I would serve 8 years in the US Army after graduation.  I even stuck it out and stayed out of any substantial trouble, graduated, and I have just been promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

Where I am now is definitely a long way from where I thought I would end up, but that doesn’t mean it is not for the better.   Now four months away from my second year as an officer and actually heading into my first deployment in Kuwait with the Strike First Battalion, more specifically know as 1-44 Air and Missile Defense Battalion stationed at Fort Hood, TX.

But who knows, without the military route, I may have never become a triathlete. It was at West Point, going into my fourth semester were I decided to try out for the Triathlon team and in fact I did not even get a full spot on the team, but just an alternate slot, but used it to help the men’s team place third at collegiate nationals, our first podium finish since the team had been established.

Nicholas in his Army Combat uniform.

I know I had talked about the possibility of making the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, and yes that is still an option for me.  I will still be training when I can.  I will be stationed at an Air Force base accomplishing the Army’s mission, but when time allows, I will be training as a professional triathlete and racing in the nearby regions if leave from duty is allowed. If anything, I can come back with a great tan from all the sandy, waterless beaches.

This of course could not be possible without the help of my commanders like LTC Brian Gibson, LTC Mark Holler, and CPT Scott Cummings.

Not to mention all my sponsors — Total Immersion Swimming, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, Serotta, Sable Water Optics, Jack and Adam’s Bicycles and my swim coach, Louis Tharp who have stuck by me and supported me even though I am in the military and always had the possibility of deploying.  When they have supported me, they have also supported the Armed Forces and what I have stood for, and I thank them for that.