Lindsey Melki, MBA/MPA Class of 2015

I grew up in New Jersey, but never heard of West Point until my junior year of high school.  I was shopping around for colleges when I met a West Point cadet.  Sure, the physical, mental, and emotional challenge, the idea of being part of something bigger than myself, were all reasons why I was drawn to West Point.  But coming from a middle class family, the whole truth is that a free, world-class education coupled with a guaranteed job after graduation sounded terrific.  Plus, in 2000, the year I began my journey at West Point, the world was as close to peace as we may ever see in our lifetimes.  Right?

Then came September 11, 2001.  Our generation’s day which will live in infamy.  If this article was instead a movie, the next 30 seconds would be filled with flashes of my days at West Point, the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, more pretty pictures of West Point, the beginning of the Iraq war, white hats in the air on graduation day, lots of cool looking military training.  Stop.  The movie slows back to real time and I am a young Lieutenant sitting on a plane next to a linebacker of a man, another Lieutenant in my unit, who takes a deep breath, looks me in the eye and says, “Holy s#*%, we are on our way to Baghdad.”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

As an 18-year-old kid, raising my right hand, taking an oath to serve my country, I had no idea the magnitude of this moment.

I had no idea that in a few short years I would be flying combat missions in a warzone in Baghdad.

I had no idea that in the end I would lose 13 friends, that 13 of my West Point classmates, Dennis, Ben, Garry, Rob, Amos, Mike, John, Dave, Adam, Jason, Dan, Paul, and Dave would pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Melki-Class of 04

My military experience surely had its ups and downs, as does everything in life, but I would not trade it for the world.  I learned time and time again to never, ever underestimate myself.  As a young, naïve, innocent, bright eyed, 18-year-old girl itching for parental freedom, ready to give college a try, I was no different than you in many ways.  You have no idea what you are capable of.  You have no idea you are capable of fighting a war until you are fighting a war.  “Courage is nothing more than a lack of options.”

Most importantly, I found a permanent, daily motivation in my 13 fallen comrades.  When I want to throw my hands in the air, delete my Gmail accounts, cancel all the informationals, quit every single club board, I think of my 13 classmates.  They are my inspiration.  They help to keep me grounded and focused.  Although I have hung up my uniform, I still believe I have a duty, a duty to each of them, to serve as a medium which preserves their legacies as members of our generation, to try my best to make each day count, to fill each moment of my life with something worthy of their sacrifice.

I wish for you these same things: a daily motivation and an unwavering belief that your capabilities are unimaginable.

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