Falling in love with military school
MANILA, Philippines - It is 1996 in rural Cagayan in Northern Philippines, and 7-year-old birthday boy Floren Herrera sits atop the lap of his Tatang (father) who is enjoying the company of his fellow farmers in a Filipino-fashioned countryside inuman (drinking session).
This is Floren’s most distinct memory of his Tatang, who died two days after his 7th birthday over undetermined health complications. Through the years his father suffered, the family failed to consult with a specialist because of lack of money.
Floren recalled the stories he was told growing up – that Tatang would rather have the money for medication used for his children’s education.
On May 25, the boy from rural Cagayan orphaned by his farmer-father at a young age graduated with honors at the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point.
He is back in the Philippines as second lieutenant of the Philippine Army. On July 11, less than a month from now, he will embark on a 6-month instructor duty at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
“Kahit anong hirap makakaya mo, kung talagang gusto mo,” he said in an interview, adding immediately that this was something he learned each day in military school. (You can endure any hardship, if you really want to.)
Pride of the Philippines
Four days after Floren’s graduation, 24-year-old Theodore Karl “Ken” Quijano of Southern Philippines marched at the Falcon Stadium in Colorado to receive his diploma from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), known to be the “home of the world’s finest leaders.”
Ken graduated with various distinctions, including the Outstanding Basic Cadet Award from the USAFA's Commandant for ranking first in military excellence among the 1,300 cadets of his class.
His father was there to share that glorious moment with him. A tight embrace was shared by the two.
Like Floren, Ken abandoned engineering school to enter PMA due to limited finances. He was already on his 3rd year as a Chemical Engineering student at the University of the Philippines in (UP) Diliman.
New cadet in West Point
Following their footsteps, 21-year-old Don Stanley “DS” Dalisay flew to the States on Wednesday, June 26, to start his military education anew as a cadet in West Point. He spent a year in PMA as president and was at the top of the class.
He boasts of a different story from the two cadets before him, but a story marked with the same commitment to service nonetheless.
An accomplished debater and youth leader, DS graduated with a degree in Public Health from UP Manila.
He was about to sign a contract for a health-related fellowship that assured him of a P30,000 monthly salary when he learned that his rejected application in PMA was overturned.
He faced a dilemma: he had to choose betweem a stable job that offered growth and fulfilled his standard (that it involve public service), and 4 more years of school to become a soldier.
He chose the academy.
"I think it's the best leadership training. As an officer, I have to lead my men to die for the country. If I can do that, it would be easier to lead other men to live for it," he explained.
His choice turned out to be for the best as — after a year in PMA — he fulfilled a childhood dream: to be able to enter West Point.
Men of humility
DS said he learned in military school — of all places — that love should be the motivation of obedience. Ken talked about the "fulfillment of being in the service." And Floren explained how training in the academy helps you appreciate the benefits of discipline.
The younger DS, for his part, pointed to a friend now serving in a Philippine public school. “It’s weird… what I did as a big achievement. Heck, I’m just entering college again. I see lots of people our age already serving the people,” he explained.
When asked what his favorite classes were in military school, Floren said he is “bad in writing” and prefers Math and Engineering classes.
What inspires them
Subjected to intense resilience training, the experiences of these 3 20-somethings differ from the typical millennial. They speak of bullet angles and nautical miles when asked about fun, memorable experiences in school.
Ken said he and his thesismates designed a "Long Range Subsonic Stealth Cruise Missile," and DS said his first live bullet training caught him offguard when the bullet fired by a trained sniper whizzed by.
Floren said it is the valiant men and women before them — who dedicated and at times lost their lives for the service of the country — who make the fight worthwhile.
"It's a general feeling," DS shared. "Once you're inside and you have endured the initial hardships, it's difficult not to fall in love with the service." - Rappler.com
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