A dark beginning to the Dark Ages

Truth be told, I spend a lot more time thinking about writing than I do writing. As I’m walking or driving or just daydreaming while staring out an office window, I’m pondering different ideas and ways to approach them. As Winter Break ended, I kept mulling over two things I wanted to write about.

First, I balanced the sadness of seeing Winter Break end and my cadet going back to the Academy with the annual celebration of her Gotcha Day. While I wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with her, January 13 always brings me joy, reminding me of the day she entered my life, so it’s always fun to write and talk about.

The second was the annual arrival of the Dark Ages, that dreaded stretch of time between Winter Break and Spring Break when many cadets find themselves in midwinter doldrums as the hangover of Winter Break subsides and the find themselves back to the reality of the academy with a long stretch before their next break.

As if often the case, however, the real world intruded on my thought process and not in a pleasant way. As I was mentally writing pieces on both topics in my head, I started hearing chatter about the passing of a cadet. Sadly, we all received confirmation.

I didn’t know Hunter Brown, never met him. He was part of my daughter’s Prep School class and while they weren’t friends, anyone who knows the Prep School environment (and that goes for West Point and Annapolis as well), there is always a connection between the Preppies. And not for nothing, but in a school of 4,000, let alone an academy where you are living in tight quarters under fairly rigid rules, there’s always a connection. So it hit hard. And by extension, it hit hard with the parents, too.

And in case my fellow USAFA parents are feeling alone, here’s a note I got from a fellow USNA parent just hours after the news became public: “Good morning, Karl. It is with heavy heart I send my condolences to you, your family, and the entire USAFA nation following the passing of Cadet Brown. So sad and much too soon. Hope your daughter is doing ok in the wake of this tragic news. So sorry…”

Truly one family.

I recalled a Navy football player dying in a similar fashion the year my son graduated. David Forney, also an offensive lineman (my son played offensive line for the sprint team), passed without warning in February. My son summed it up succintly. “The whole brigade is hurting,” he texted me.

And now the Cadet Wing is hurting, too, and unfortunately, it’s not unfamiliar as it’s been a mere 250-some days since we unexpectedly said goodbye to  Christopher Scott Ryong Adams. And, frankly, writing about this kind of thing is wearisome but I find it necessary.

When some people look at Hunter, they see a football player, a bull of a young man trained to clear paths for his running backs and protect his quarterback; an athlete playing America’s Game at the highest collegiate level possible.

Some look at Hunter and see an Air Force Academy cadet, an accomplished young man training to become a military officer and a leader, sworn to protect not just those in his charge but an entire country. A lifetime of success and hard work had placed him among “the best of the best” and poised to do what few are called (and chosen) to do.

But when I look at pictures of Hunter, I see his smile. I see his bright blue eyes. I see is a son and a friend. I see a kid. What I see was a bright future which no one could yet accurately described extinguished. before its potential could even be scratched.

I never met Hunter, but as the father of an offensive lineman, I know their mold and am willing to guess he fit it well – not docile but not aggressive, a protector by nature, always putting team above self, willing to do whatever – make any necessary sacrifice – that helps the team achieve its goal. Unseen and unsung but the cornerstone of a team’s success, offensive linemen see the spotlight as a place not just for someone else to fill, but they take great pride in being part of the reason someone is chosen to be in the spotlight.

It’s a quality sorely lacking in today’s “Look At Me” society making for the darkest start imagineable for the Dark Ages.

2 thoughts on “A dark beginning to the Dark Ages

  1. Thank you for this beautiful write up. You did sum him up perfectly. He was a force on the field but a funny teddy bear off the field.

    Like

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