On Sept. 11, 2022, Cadet Anthony Melick, a senior from Overland, Kansas, delivered a speech during Vespers service offered advice to new cadets and shared his MMA experience. See his speech below.
Vespers is a nondenominational service that focuses on self-reflection and personal growth. Cadets take time to reflect on their week, as well as mentally prepare themselves for the next week.
Many of you new boys still have that memory of first arriving on MMA’s campus for the first time as a cadet. For some of you, it was a nice change of pace you were comfortable with. However, for most of you, it may have been extremely overwhelming. I, for one, was completely overwhelmed with the new environment.
ARRIVING AT MMA & WHY I CAME HERE
I arrived at MMA as a new boy in August of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. My parents had decided that virtual public schooling was not good for my education or my mental health. Before attending MMA as a cadet, I had been to one of the Academy’s summer programs back in 2017. Other than that, I knew very little about the school and the campus.
Showing up on the first day, I had very little knowledge of what I was going into. At first, being sent here felt like my identity was being stripped away from me, literally. My hair was gone, I no longer had any civilian attire, and all of my personal belongings of value to me were left at home. At first, I felt like I was going to be locked away in a prison. On top of that, social distancing protocols at the time initially prevented me from interacting with other cadets like I would have preferred.
MY INITIAL EXPERIENCE AT MMA
School during the pandemic was extremely tough. Masks had to be worn at all times outside your rooms, and the campus was completely closed for all non-sporting events. For cadets, there was very little to do on the weekends. All of this was happening during my Maroon Phase.
My first month at MMA was probably one of the toughest times of my life. During this period, I spent most of my free time in my room, emotionally reflecting on how much I missed family and friends from home. I was extremely homesick at the time, and it constantly affected my daily routine. To this point, I had lived a very comfortable and stable life, surrounded by the people I knew and loved. The MMA lifestyle was a big change of pace for me, as all of the comforts of living I had previously known were thrown out the window. My 15-year-old self was overwhelmed by the dramatic change, and it was very tempting to crack under pressure.
I did several things as a new cadet that helped me adjust to the MMA lifestyle. Some of them included talking to other cadets and making new friends and participating in activities I enjoy. These are things that made this school feel a little closer to home for me. To put it simply, I stayed socially and physically active here and kept myself busy in order to become more comfortable with our rigorous schedules.
1. Meeting and interacting with other people
First of all, I interacted with others, learned new names, and got more familiar with the cadets and faculty here. Seeing a familiar face every day is very comforting and helps you feel more relaxed, which counters the stress that comes with being in a military environment.
2. Doing activities that I enjoy
I also stayed active with extracurriculars and activities. Through my Maroon Phase, I learned that keeping myself busy really helped me stay away from my negative and regressive habits. I focused on activities that I did enjoy, such as watching TV, drumming, playing baseball, or swimming. Things like this helped remind me of home, which helped me keep my mind off of the strenuous military lifestyle. After a while, I was able to slowly ease into my new cadet life.
These activities kept me occupied and helped me feel more comfortable with my environment.
Cadet Melick has set several new Academy records in swimming since his arrival at MMA.
3. Learning to live with peers
MMA's Future Business Leaders of America Sports and Entertainment Management team — including Cadets Melick, Marco Afane, and Jack Stalnaker — placed first at state competition in April and competed at nationals in summer 2022.
Additionally, getting used to MMA also required me to learn to live in close quarters with my peers. My first roommate and I had our disagreements, and living with each other required a lot of effort. Getting used to sharing utilities and other items was tough for me, as I had always had the privilege of having absolute privacy at home. However, over time, I learned to be more patient with people and learned essential life skills about working with others. Everyone has come from different lifestyles and backgrounds around the world, so it was important for me to learn these skills.
ADVICE TO OTHERS
Brothers – please know that it isn't supposed to be easy here.
For almost everyone, getting used to the lifestyle here was at least at one point uncomfortable or even scary. From a new boy to a battalion staff member, from a squad leader to a company commander, from a middle schooler to a senior, know that your struggles and discomforts don't have to be dealt with alone.
Talk to others and talk through your problems. Sometimes the best way for people to adapt and overcome is through verbal communication with others. People care about you and your well-being here. Also, remember to stay active in school activities and keep yourself busy. This will help you become more comfortable as a cadet here. Lastly, it's important to build a positive relationship with the people you live around. If you build good relationships, you will be more comfortable with your living experience here at MMA.
Stay engaged, stay positive, and stay active.