In this past year I have met and encountered more females seeking admissions to the United States Military Academy than it seemed ever before. Our nation celebrates this change in attitude towards women in these previously male-dominated roles. I was among those females seeking admissions into the prestigious Academy. On my journey this past year I navigated several roads that led me in completely opposite directions and so completely opposite destinations. They say college is an enormous stepping-stone in one’s destiny and one of utmost importance if one desires to succeed in the wider workplace. Those three roads led me to three different places of learning in which I would mimic and learn from very different docents and therefore from whom I would be shaped into one of three very different women.
On my travels I met several strong and courageous women in pursuit of West Point specifically to fulfill their dreams of becoming a United States Officer and to them I wish my most sincere congratulations and success for I know the road will be difficult. I asked questions those women may or may not have thought about. I traversed their trails. I fought their fight among many competitive students. I had concerns: Cost. Cost of school. Expenses. Worth it? Is what worth it? Education? Eight years of service at West Point? Triple digit figures in debt elsewhere? These things I ran through my head in choppy, stressed phrases desiring one school one day and another the next all for very different reasons—for reasons as far as the East is from the West. Literally. I was indecisive about school/am indecisive about life. What I wanted 365 days ago is very different than what I want now. I am happy. Thrilled with Hillsdale, proud to pole vault in Div-2 athletics, and content with an acceptance to one solid school, but even still as I see flickers of those courageous women’s lives at West Point, and pride in my own brothers’ successes, I can’t help but regret some of my decisions. Deep down I know I am where God has led me, but I can’t help but let go of God’s hand just for a moment and look behind me at West Point and my fourth bothers’ graduation from it.
“Where are you headed, sir?” the officer at the gate demanded clearly annoyed by the flock of parents flooding his gate as my Father handed him our identification.
“Superintendant’s reception, sir for my son’s graduation.”
“Alright let me see into the trunk of your car” walking towards the back of our big, red van which we named the Bassette Mobile and which I call B-Bo for short.
Those spiked gates at the security checkpoint surrounding the United States Military Academy continued to climb heavenward as they always have since their founding in 1802 and in the same rigid, formal fashion that I always remembered since I first saw them ten years ago.
“What is in the Pelican case?” the unsuspecting guard asked as he tried to keep pillows and blankets from rolling out of the back door.
That was the end of that. We passed through. The heavily patrolled road wound us down into the heart of West Point, past the barracks, and into sight of the second nicest lawn in America. It dawned on me that for many families driving past these things it was the first time they might have laid eyes on the erect structures; whereas my familiarity with the school made me gloss over the buildings and monuments.
It seemed a strange thing that this could be the last time I saw these things—things which had seemed just a yearly event for me. We had been coming to my brothers’ events so many years that I had quite forgotten the momentous achievement in being accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point and even still to graduate from it for success is not guaranteed there. I think for many students accepted into respected schools like Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, even Hillsdale, they think they receive their acceptance letter as a confirmation of their excellence, while at West Point it is an invitation to continue striving towards excellence in a very competitive field.
Mingling in the soup’s garden among the soon-to-be graduates I realized how much I would miss this, but more than the events—them—friends. I looked around and saw all the faces I knew. He had come home with Josh for a Nordic skiing meet, she had spent the weekend at the camp, she…Aspen! I ran over and tackled her.
“Qúe pasa, chica!”
Though our families had never met, I knew them. Looking at my friend and her family I saw the similarities and also the changes in how West Point shaped her. We teased, joked, and laughed but with an element of formality all of the cadets surrounding me.
Each cadet had to feel tremendous amount of pride of which I could only contemplate. I believe that great honor comes in humbling and allowing oneself to be a little fish in a big pond for at West Point all are such. All have displayed to the bystander their ability to lead and to lead well. Very nearly I had become one of these and almost chose to put on the grey slacks and black-toed dress shoes to join the long grey line of men and women all dressed the same all marching towards one goal, but what happened? I contemplated how different my life would have been had I joined…well had I been accepted. And that little word stung. If I was a little different, a little stronger, a little smarter, a little more like my brothers then would West Point want me?
It seems so many of dreams in life rely on college: dreams for a well-paying job, dreams to achieve status, and dreams to be known. They all said, “You’ll get in. You’re a Bassette.” I wanted to believe them. Few doubted. Why should I doubt? Did I not lead all three of my varsity sports teams as Captain? Had I not achieved multiple successes claiming the state record in Pole Vault, hurdled into countless first places in track and field, and claimed the decathlon title for the outdoor track season of 2015? Did I not take Physics a math AND science course on my GAP year, subjects which I have never excelled at in order to increase my chances of acceptance and had I not shed many tears as I persisted to flip page after page wanting after every page and every tear that fell to quit? Did I not have four brothers who marched before me, and should I not follow in their footsteps? Did I not deserve to follow? But the truth is I did doubt. I doubted who I was, what I was supposed to do and so much more. I never dreamed of West Point, but I put my pride there.
Graduation day came for my brother. Walking down the hill from our far off parking lot, I clung to an older brother in uniform for balance taking great pride to walk beside him as I do with all my other brothers. We walked towards Mitchie Stadium where Army lost football game after football game, but in that same place during an Army Navy game my brother decided at fourteen he too wanted to attend USMA. That is dreaming. Ten years later he was graduating. That is living—longing for something and working to fulfill that dream.
It is hard to adequately describe something such as a West Point gala, which seemed so annual. I felt a bitter sweetness. As the names of each cadet was called, I listened for those I knew through obstacle racing, Nordic skiing, home visiting, summer camping, sledding at our house on breaks, and so many other events hosted in our home.
For ten years I have been an outsider looking in to the onslaught of my brother’s events, parades, and parties at West Point. No one can understand the inside workings of the military without becoming part of the military. I have seen at least a hundred cadets walk into our house share a meal and depart I hope touched by a family away from home. For many years the pride I held for my brothers’ made me think that one day maybe I would live inside those barracks and study within those educational buildings, but sitting in section CC of Mitchie stadium I knew I never would, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t enough of something. I had only to trust that it was for the best. I could only allow the words of those I loved to guide me to understand a bigger plan. I was still fighting though. Fighting to comprehend trying to climb the wall that separated two worlds and for reasons I would not know. My disappointment could not be suppressed.
When I received the letter in the mail directed to Miss Kathryn Bassette from the Office of Admissions West Point, I understood a door was shut even without opening the letter. Words fell out of my mouth, “Oh God. No. I can do it.” Despite the dread I felt, I had expected this letter’s arrival. July 13th 2015 I had started this process I told myself to say yes to West Point, and April 13th 2016 I was formally and officially denied admission.
Even as disappointment struck deep in my pride, I found myself asking not what they knew about me but what I knew about myself. Instead of asking, “Do they know who I am?” I asked, “Do I know who I am? Do I know enough about myself to make a life changing decision void of pride or emotion?”
Just a week later, God closed another door. And another. And another. Until I thought He had broken me and dashed all my dreams, but he brought me back to the path I had lost, and I saw behind me the terrors that could have befallen me and trapped me, things that only the bravest and strongest could overcome but which could have destroyed me. When I had fallen asleep, I lost my ability to think and choose for myself, so He had carried me, and when I woke to where I was and who I was (who I had become), I saw the sun by His grace and by it I did not demand an explanation from God as before. God does not need to explain His ways to me. Instead I came to see his grace in that time.
As a United States Military Officer leads his or her men, I knew each successful officer has the trust of each soldier. Trust happens before action can follow. In this way I chose at nine years old to let God lead me on the fields of battle in life, and at nineteen God is still my Five Star General. It takes everything I have to let Him lead sometimes especially when it comes to one of the biggest decisions of my life—college—and though I have often ignored His wisdom and course of action for my life, I realize he watches over me with a jealous eye.
I have an exceptional pride in those who go before me, but to be honest my identity was wrapped up in my name.
God created me with talents and gifts unique to make me unique. Qualities best nurtured and expanded at a place other than West Point. My life is unique not because of anything I have done, but it has meaning and purpose because God made me all that I am. Any institution that rejects me for who I am has chosen to reject me because I don’t fit their mold. Just because I don’t fit the coat doesn’t mean I don’t fit any coat. But when we don’t want another coat, it is hard to move on and chose another. Often when we are given what we want, we realize we don’t really want it. I am proud that our Army KNOWS its soldiers and those who fit the mold. They know me. And I am proud to formally announce I did not get accepted to West Point. I got accepted to Hillsdale.
To you women who report to West Point in five days, Good luck. Always remember who you are. You are more than what others pin on you. Clearly, we now walk very different roads, yours the less traveled, but both leading to our destinies.