In this episode, your host Grant Vermeer speaks with Karl Smith the creator of the blog My Kid the Mid and the author of the book Anchored in Tradition.
Karl is a USNA parent (Noah '20) and has a daughter exploring attending service academies.
He has been of great service to the USNA parent community through his book, blog, and parent facebook pages.
We talk about his journey as a naval academy parent and his book. He started his career as a writer, so it only seemed fitting to him that he eventually write a book. When his son entered the United States Naval Academy and he began to become familiar with all the history, legend and lore surrounding the place, that seemed like the perfect topic to tackle. The result is “Anchored In Tradition: An unofficial collection of fun, facts, and figures about life at the United States Naval Academy.”
The book is written in a breezy style and constructed so that a reader can practically open to any page and jump right in. I encourage you to get a copy! You may order a copy easily on amazon via this link https://amzn.to/2sflWyR.
Karl is a great conversationalist, storyteller, and dedicated parent. He is honest, authentic and funny and shares so much tremendous wisdom and insight for everyone around navigating the academy journey.
Karl recommends the book Chester Midshipmouse by Susan Weisberg. You can purchase it at https://amzn.to/2ONZMLX.
I know you will enjoy this episode, so please download and listen.
If you want to learn more about the United States Naval Academy, please "like" Grant's facebook page and visit his website.
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This is your host Grant Vermeer Naval Academy class of 2017 and I'm your Academy insider. It's my goal to be your guide through the Naval Academy experience by sharing my stories and providing you insight information into the life of a Midshipman.Speaker 2:
Academy insider is in no way officially affiliated with the United States Naval Academy. All of the content on Academy insider is my own and does not reflect the views of the United States Naval Academy, the United States Navy, nor the department of defense I know here on the Academy instead podcast, we've talked with a lot of former midshipman about the midshipman experience, about their experience on the fleet, what they're currently doing in their life outside of the military, and all of the above. But today I wanted to switch it up just a little bit because at the end of the day, the midshipman journey is not just for the midshipman, but the families as well. So today I'm joined by Karl Smith, who is the father of a class of 20 midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. He's an author of a brand new book titled anchored in tradition. He also runs a blog called my kid the mid. In this episode we talk all about what it's like being the father of a midshipman, what it's like being a parent from the process of the college choice all the way through to the point of being a Firstie at the Naval Academy and what an emotional roller coaster that is. Make sure to check out this episode. It's really entertaining. There's a ton of insight, good advice and just honest, wholesome conversation that I think you all will really enjoy. So I make sure to check it out and I hope you guys have a great time listening to this episode. Hey everyone, welcome to the Academy insider podcast and Carl, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. That's my pleasure, Greg. Thanks for inviting me. Absolutely. So again, the topic of today's episode is really going to be about what the journey at the Naval Academy is like for parents because that is a topic that I don't think is talked about enough, especially within the Naval Academy community as people are kind of going through their college decision process. I don't think parents take the time to realize that it's going to be a difficult journey for them as well. So I'm really glad you're taking the time to join us today. Again, just thank you so much.Speaker 3:
No thanks. And I agree grant that the um, you know, it's just not your kid is your family for found out. It wasn't just grant going to the Naval Academy. The whole family is going to the Navy.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. So with that, you do have a son who is currently a Firstie at the Naval Academy. If you don't mind just telling us the Academy has had our audience a little bit about yourself as well as your midshipman. How we ended up at the Academy, will companies in his major, just a little bit of background about him as a midshipman.Speaker 3:
That sounds great. Sure. So I work in marketing and digital technology and had been doing that for the last 15, 20 years. My son was first introduced to the Naval Academy through the boy Scouts. Our boy scout troop tries to camp at every Academy at some point during the, the uh, their time there. So we camped at the state park right on the Severn and we toured the Naval Academy and that kind of caught his attention. His name is Noah Smith. He's in the dirty 30, and he's majoring in cyber operations. And we're holding our breath now because you know, in about a week or two to get their service selection and we'll all time, all kind of on pins and needles to see where he lands there. So,Speaker 1:
and what did he pick as, or what does he want?Speaker 3:
His selection is first choices, information professional. Okay, great. But we know that that's very competitive, you know, and his second selection is a subs. So we're, we're hopeful that he gets one of his top two picks. He's done a number of sub cruises during his time, summer training. So he feels comfortable I think with either one.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Fantastic. Well, I'm always definitely partial towards a fellow six battalion cyber major, so I really, I hope it goes well for him. And service collection is always a super fun day, so yeah, that's great. But again, the focus of today's conversation really is going to be about the parent's journey in, in one of your blog articles you wrote. So you have a blog called my mid, the kid in one of the articles you talk about that you weren't so sure about his decision to go to the Naval Academy and you didn't really know how to feel about it. So when that happened, when he decided to go to the Naval Academy, commit to go to the Naval Academy, what was your thought process? What was going through your mind?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so great question. People will immediately say to you, Oh, you must be so happy for him that he's at the Academy. And what I tell people is I'm proud of him and happy for him.[inaudible] but very selfishly, I like to spend time with my kids. And once your kid signs that paper, he's not yours anymore. He's the government property and you're a side distraction. Um, so when he decided that he wanted to go full boar to go this, you know, one of the things you learn as a parent is you have to be selfless. And, and I firmly believe that once you have kids that a friend of mine is, I had a relative, wrote a book called I am third, my God, my family, myself and uh, and I'm, I'm all in on that idea. So you know, whatever. And that, not whatever the kids want, cause I think that's the wrong way to look at it. But when he sees something like that, that he definitely sees a path for his future and he was 100%, you know, you have to support them. You have to support them and just try to help them do it with his eyes open. Here's what could happen. Let's have plan B in place. But it was difficult. My father was a Marine and, uh, one of the most frightening men I've ever met, anybody who would ever need my father in law. My, no, his other grandfather was in the Navy and not by choice, was invited during the Korean conflict and didn't really love the time there. So where he got this notion, this was the place for him.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. And that's an interesting concept because a lot of times when you ask people, Oh, do you have family in the military? It's seen as like a, Oh yeah, I do. And that's why I want it to go. So it's an interesting concept and aspect there to have potentially not as positive of a military experience within the family and then have that kind of cause a little bit of hesitancy or reserve what, and now it's your son, it's your child.Speaker 3:
Right? Absolutely. Because[inaudible] you know, I think about my father-in-law telling us the horror stories of being in the Korean war and how difficult that was for them. And, uh, and my son has all the stories about my father and growing up with him, you know, people ask me, describe your childhood. I said, let me sum it up to you in one sentence. My dad lied about his age to get into the Marine Corps during the Korean conflict and he went into bomb disposal and immediately everyone goes, yeah, I get it. Yeah. So he's heard all those horror stories and he knows how tough it is. But you're the one point grant during his, his senior year in high school during his football season, he just, I remember him, he did a tweet and he just said, I'm ready to be part of something bigger than myself. Donavie I was like, okay, that's when I think you definitely got it in his mind. Like that's, and for him there was no other Academy. He didn't apply to army. He didn't apply to air force. He didn't apply to coast guard. He didn't apply to ROTC. It was Naval Academy or nothing.Speaker 1:
Yeah. Interesting. Well yeah and that's fantastic. And I think that's a big aspect of what life at the Naval Academy is like. And it's something interesting is you don't necessarily need to have that. I was like, I have this dream of serving my country and I'll do it by any means possible. Whether that's going to all these different academies. Sometimes it's as simple as I want to be a part of something bigger than myself and I want to be surrounded by people who are likeminded and motivated and constantly dedicated to the process of development as a person and as a leader. Uh, and I think that is one of the amazing things about the Naval Academy because you become part of that ecosystem, part of that environment that forces you to grow and puts you through adversity in order to make that happen. So very mature on his end. And I'm glad, I'm glad it ended up working out well and he's at the Academy.Speaker 3:
Yeah, it definitely, I think that was immature and you know, and it's interesting you talk about kind of growing up now, he had to grow up in that environment. So you know, your turn your kid over. And Noah was, it was a high school graduate and went right in. He wasn't prior unless he's, you know, he got in as a high schooler and he's had to grow up. And as someone who has always appreciated respect and order and discipline, that's just the way he's wired. You know, there's a whole nother level, the Naval Academy that you have to learn to become a part of and you learn what it means to be selfless and put others first or put the mission first, if you will. I think that's a, that's a, it's a great growth opportunity and he's definitely embraced that.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. And so you also have a daughter who's now going through the college search process right now. Now that your son has made it to first year, he's gone through the entire Naval Academy experience. How has his Naval Academy experience influenced her thoughts and decisions in your thoughts regarding her college choice?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so great timing because she had her blue gold officer interview last night. Oh wow. One thing she said that I thought was interesting is Katie is, uh, she has said, I'll go to whichever Academy takes me. That's where I want to be. And she wants, if not the ROTC rod, she is all in on that, on that aspect of it. Now she has a different experience. You know, she's a, we adopted Katie from China and she has said that she kind of feels like this is her, what's the, she used the phrase, one of her essays, a welcome obligation to kind of pay back her country. But she told the blue gold officer last night, she said, I was able to watch my brother, you know, leave as an 18 year old high school boy. And I've seen what, what has happened and how he's matured and how he's become a better person. And she said to yourself, that's something she's interested in. She sees that growth and she sees that opportunity and she embraced it. She wants to kind of take that on. And you know, if you think it's gut wrenching tab, your son go to the Naval Academy. And I see, you know how tough it was for him. I'm thinking, good grief, here's my, you know, my little girl, you gotta be kidding me. We're going, you know, so here we go again. So yeah, it's been an emotionally challenging a road so far. But again, that's what she wants. She is, she's not doing this half-heartedly. She really embraces the idea of service and she's incredibly passionate about our veterans and about the military. You know, she did her gold award, our, sorry, her silver ward project. So I'm sorry, gold award project for girl Scouts for a, um, transitional homeless shelter for female veterans center, Philadelphia because she said, I want to do so I've got to do something to help. So she's definitely, that has, if you think about, you know, no went there of course is a plea. And that was right when Katie became a freshman in high school. So you talked about formative time had a tremendous impact on her. I mean, she's been through these formative years of high school, been able to watch him grow and it's, it's definitely had a direct impact on what she wants to do and who she wants to be.Speaker 1:
Yeah, absolutely. And to, I'm going to take the time to share a little bit of my story with my sister because talk about timing and forefront of years and how that plays into the college decision process. My sister's only two years younger than me, so when I was a plebe in high school, my sister was going through her junior year and going through the recruitment process because she was recruited as a basketball player out of high school. Well, as she came out for her visit at the Naval Academy, which she was being recruited by, for those of you who know me and know my story, I wasn't very happy with freshman year and I didn't like it all that much. So when my sister came out on the recruiting visit, she's like, wow, this place is so great. This is way cool. Like I could come to school with you. And I was literally like, whatever you do, come here. Do not like stay far away. This place is terrible. But what's funny is that had she been four years younger than me and was on her recruiting visit when I was a Firstie, I would've been like, you need to come here. And I probably would have saved my dad about$250,000 for my sister's college education. So sorry dad for that one. I'll take that one. I got the, I got the other sip that was on me. But it is, it's crazy how that timing plays a piece of it and just how all the different factors and what a journey, I'm sure it's been for you going through that. And as I talk about, if I were to talk about, you know, the Naval Academy when I was a freshman verse when I was a senior verse, even now all of my answers would change. So I guess my question now pushed back to you is how would you describe your Naval Academy experience watching your son go through it and how has your, I guess, reaction or thoughts about the Academy changed throughout the course of his time?Speaker 3:
So, you know, I'm born in, I was born and raised a writer and I spent a lot of time in my life writing and I've used the phrase emotional roller coaster a lot and I wish I could go back and every time I've ever used it, because I clearly did not know what an emotional roller coaster was until this happened. When I think about the, you know, the struggle to get the nomination, the struggle for me to get the appointment that, that unbelievable euphoria that he, you know, he got in and he clicked the accept button and then going through induction day without question, my worst day as a father, it was a nightmare and plebes summer was horrible and plebe year was difficult. And then then the amazing things that happened after that. And truly just highs and lows and, and your concept of time, you know the, the adage that there, your time at the Academy is broken into thirds, plebe summer, complete year. And I'm telling you grant, you know, and I thought, Oh, you know, you think you know everything cause we're all so smart and like, Oh sure that cap went on Herndon and that was yesterday and all of a sudden he's commissioning in may. I'm like, yeah, what, what happened? So I would say he had a difficult plebe summer and I think you'd said to Katie, what do you think she would have said? Oh my gosh, what a nightmare. No, just like, in fact I remember showing my wife your letter home, some other home and she's like, my son could have written, you know, the line from Noah's first letter home was, I'd be lying to you if I told you I was enjoying. That's a very subtle way to put that. But y et the change grant is, you know, you walk through, you walk on that on the yard for the first time, you're overwhelmed by, you know, t he, t he, it's so stoic and it's just dramatic. And then you start to go through the emotions and you, you know, and it just changes. So that has been a real roller coaster ride. And you know, tomorrow night, uh, my son will play his very last football game of his life. And I'm trying to keep it together for that. And I'm thinking that I've referred to it as the parade of lasts. You know that your last time, your last reform, it's your last hello night. It's your last switch to SD SDBS. All these things are happening. There's just your last time, you know, and you're, you always think they're always be. Next time it's pretty soon there'll be no next time, you know, you're going to be flying to China to play basketball. That's right. That's what's going to happen. Yeah,Speaker 1:
absolutely. And I, and that's way cool and the journey is so special. And you mentioned a little bit that those tough moments, a lot of those tough moments at the start. What made it so tough for you and what made plebe summer so difficult as a parent? SoSpeaker 3:
break them into two cause I think they're definitely separate issues. The induction day thing, and my son, I will say this is farmer, he owned it. He did not prepare for induction dare plebe summer at all. Yeah, right. Like it's just you, you're laughing. Did you know? So you know, you had so much adulation, so much euphoria about getting in and him, you know, accepting or so excited and we'd go through ID and for parents it's awesome. You spend the whole day and everyone's just telling you your kid is the greatest thing ever. You know? And then you sit there and the blue angels fly over your head. And I'm looking at my wife and my daughter, I'm like, this is the greatest day of all time. And my son comes up and his eyes are red and they're, they're puffy and I'm, and he goes, I don't know that I can do this. You want, you know, and his sister's cling onto him. The mother is crying and I've got to figure a way to talk them off the ledge. And then, you know, the kids are used to talking to every day, multiple times a day. You don't contact at all. Yeah. And that's separation. And it's one thing to be separated and know they're doing something they enjoy, but to know how miserable they are and to be helpless. And it is absolutely, it's mortifying. You know, you can't, you can't help them. You can't do anything. And that whole, you know, waiting for those phone calls and you got 20 minutes and it's that, that separation, that isolation when you spend, and we made a conscious effort in the couple of weeks between graduation and I day to spend as much time together as we could. So we were always together. Then all of a sudden the fourth wheel on the car is missing and you know, and he's not there. So that separation is just so hard. No plea, beer's a little easier. But you know, there's, it's a whole different animal because you got to take a demic part of it. But induction day was, and I think the kids who are prepared, their parents are prepared. And I've told, you know, what I've tried to share with the parents is, man, make sure your kids watch the videos, make sure they, you know, they read the message boards and they get prepared because if you're not, you'll end up like my son. And here's a great example. I said to my son, I said, look, here's your permission report packet. You got to read this stuff. Yeah, yeah, I'll get to it. Well there's basic stuff like chain of command in there, which is a softball. You're a detailed, okay, this kid's struggling. I'll give him an easy one. So the detailer system, Hey Smith, what's the chain of command? And ESS, sir, I'll find out sir. And I'm sure the detail his jaw hit the ground cause he's like, what color the sky. I'll get back to you on that. You know? So just doing the prep work is I think is really[inaudible].Speaker 1:
Yeah, absolutely. And what you're talking about with Ida and also plead summer, it was something that my mom has always said is that as a parent, you can only be as happy as your unhappiest child. And that's something, but, but in all, in all reality, that's something as a parent that you have to realize that that's gonna happen for you during plebe summer. Because like you're saying, please, summer's not fun. It's not designed to be fun. In the vast majority of cases, the person is not going to enjoy it. There are a couple of people that enjoy it. I witnessed it firsthand as a detailer that like some people enjoyed it. I was like, I don't get you. You're crazy. But you know, that's great. But it is, it's a difficult process and it's meant to be. And so yeah, that process is a parent to more power to you guys is very difficult because that was my biggest regret at the Academy was that one specifically plead summers that I put my mom through that by sending those letters home. Right. And then you don't talk to them for a week and a half later. So even if something did change and you're happy, the last thing your mom's seen for the past 10 days is the letter that says, I hate that place. Like save me. Right. Yeah. Uh, so that piece is just always so interesting. So more power to the parents for your guys's strength through the entire process because it can be really difficult. But on the flip side, Oh yeah, no, please.Speaker 3:
Well, I was going to say the thing that got me through, they got me through that was the, um, were the other parents, the experienced parents. I can think of one mom in particular who for no reason that I can ever understand, saw my desperate Facebook posts and began messaging me and we talked constantly on Facebook and I'll tell you something, grant, if it wasn't for her, I don't know that I would've made him, but forget my son. I don't know that I would have made it, you know, she just was so, no, she just took the time to, in a very level headed way, what you're feeling is normal and all that kind of stuff and how to get through it and some ways to handle it. And that, that is, I think what makes the experience special when you see these parents who've gone through it before, who can talk you through it and let you know. And I've, I, the phrase I've used time and time again is your experience is the right experience because people will tell you, well, here's how you have to handle it. Well maybe not for your kid, maybe not for grant, maybe not for, you know, just to give you the options and let you know that there are different ways to get through it. And I think that that, you know, your experience is unique. You know, you know, you were in Farsi I athlete. That changes your experience. You know, you had a rough plebe summer that changes your experience every, everything's different. But the common thread is it's a shared experience one way or the other for whatever reason, you're all there together. All these kids look different. You know, big tos used to say a big tall, fat, small red head, shaved head, whatever. It doesn't matter. They're all lumped in together and they all got to get through it and we all as parentsSpeaker 1:
we have to get through to. Absolutely. And as a young kid say nowadays, say it louder for the people in the back like that, that right there. So that's one of my things in one of my articles that I have on my blog on Academy insider, which is my advice for incoming midshipman. I talk all about there is no right experience, there is no wrong experience. It is your experience. There is no right reason for going to the Academy. There is no wrong reason for going to the Academy. It's just your reason. And it defines your journey at the Academy. And so long as you're dedicated to buying into the system to improve yourself personally and professionally. So that way when you graduate, you are ready to lead sailors and Marines, then you are there for the right reason,Speaker 3:
right reason 100% everybody is there to do something different. But I tried to repeat that to people over and over. Now, you know, she taught, we were talking about the time thing. Now all of a sudden, you know, I have plead parents reaching out to me saying, gee, Carl, you know, here's what, what, what can I do for my kid? Oh yeah, yeah. I mean I feel like just yesterday I was the one asking those questions and you try to, you try to pay it forward now. Right? It's, I tend to tell them, I don't know why your kid went there. I don't know what your kid wants to accomplish, but they're there and it's okay. It's okay. Absolutely.Speaker 1:
Fantastic. So we've now talked a little bit about some of the tough parts, but now that you're almost towards the end of the journey, what have been some of the best parts about being a Naval Academy parent?Speaker 3:
I will say being able to go and just be on the yard is to have an excuse to go to the yard. It's great. I'd love that. Since he's knows plays in the sprint football team and I love football. You know, being able to see him play again has been just a utter joy meeting a lot of the parents involved with that has been just incredible. Really come to just kind of just soak it all in. And you know, it's for a limited time. You know, one of the upsides of the Academy is you're out in four years, whether you like it or not, you're going to push it.Speaker 1:
No red shirt. Ears. Yeah, no semester off.Speaker 3:
So you're not thinking, well my kid might go another semester. No, your kid won't. So you really do. And I think about the, you do get kind of swept up in the tradition, whether it's the Herndon climb or watching the brigade go through the streets of Annapolis and then do the brigade March on going to the army, Navy game. You know, all those things are just very special things that you just, you just don't see in other, other schools. And it's really made that enjoyable.Speaker 1:
Yeah, absolutely. And through this entire journey, you've documented and wrote a lot about it through your blog, my kid, the mid, how did you decide in the first place that you wanted to start that blog and what was your motivation for starting it and continuing it now to this point?Speaker 3:
So as a writer and in my time since I've kind of moved out of that as a profession, I just don't want to tell stories. And there's so many. So there's two things. One, there's the, the, the desire to tell stories and to, there's so much emotion. Like I said, there's this roller coaster, there's the Naval Academy as a parent. And I just, I felt the only way really that you could kind of cope with those emotions was to put them down on virtual paper was that you write them. Then I started to think, well I know, I know how much people help me when they were sharing their experience and how, how has helpful meant that well maybe it will help some people and some people have responded with incredibly positive ways saying, boy, this is really helpful. I never thought of it that way. Or you know, that's exactly what they needed. Or conversely, I have no idea what you're talking about. And that's strong correspondences. Yeah. Just to just kind of get, I had all this in me and some of them just, you just got to get it out and I could talk about it, but it just seemed, you know, it's easier for me sometimes to sit down at a keyboard and just start writing. So just started writing. Yeah, absolutely.Speaker 1:
And through this journey, uh, the following has grown a little bit. How is that some of the feedback that you've received from other families impacted how you run the blog? And just kind of impacted you as a person through some of the feedback that you received for a lot of the stuff that you've written.Speaker 3:
How has it affected me? So that is good question. I've shared some of the not so good things. There is the drug scandal at the Academy. There was another mid who got, was asked to leave for another reason. I've shared those and because I think it's one thing grant that I think people Cisco by 20 early questions about how you know, how you respond to people, the economy's not perfect and some people, I think you know your kids at the Academy, Oh, it's super and it's easy and it's fun and it's awesome and edited perfect. And they never do anything wrong and it's the best and the brightest, right? They pick the best of the world. Here's, I have bad news for everybody. They're all humanity and I've been pleased that people have taken that in the right way. Not that I'm criticizing the Academy, just that I'm saying part of your experience may not all be positive. You know, there might be some things, there are some kids that your son or daughter's going to go to school with who aren't going to do the right thing and the Academy is meant to filter them out. And I think it does a pretty good job of doing that. But that I think to be able to be honest with those things and also to be able to share some of the emotions because sometimes I can feel like, Oh, maybe I'm overreacting, maybe I shouldn't be that upset. But when I see people going, Oh my gosh, you hit it right in the head, I'm like, Oh, okay. It just part of that, going back to that shared experience, we all get sad about that. We all get emotional about that and not all most of us do. And to see people reacting to it like that I think has been that. That's been very gratifying cause it, it, it kind of gives people permission to, um, to deal with that. Um, once one piece, uh, the, so two pieces on the board that come to mind, one was when my father passed away. Um, you know, he's called the reluctant sailor. Um, he actually was drafted by the army to go on the Korean war and said, I have an idea, I'll join the Navy instead. Um, and his whole mission when he got in there was to get home to his wife. That was his only mission. And when he passed away, that was hard. Um, you know, no is very close with his grandfather. And when he came home for that, I said, kind of told that story and people, you know, it's struck the cord with a lot of people. The other one was, um, I saw on Facebook, one of the moms, and it's one of the things we read in these Facebook posts and you freeze and you have to read it again. Um, and she said, my son has completed, uh, the process of, um, voluntarily leaving the Naval Academy. And I remember reading that grant and just like every bone in my body just chilled. I froze. I thought, I can't imagine it. And, you know, and I kind of felt like, you know, kind of went back to my journalism days and I felt like maybe I was being intrusive, but I ha I felt like I had to reach out there. And I said, listen, I know things are raw right now, but if you're ever in a position where you want to share that story, I think a lot of people could benefit from it. And, um, her mid was that interested in talking, but he said, God bless him. He said to his mom, go ahead and tell the story. It's okay. And she did. And I will tell you the, the response that that post generated was beyond anything I could have expected. Um, because I, I can tell you, mrs Vermeer probably got a certain letter and said, my son's leaving me leave the Academy. Oh yeah. Um, there were times, there were many times in that first year that my son, that plebe year, um, where we thought he's not gonna make it. He's, he's gonna, he's gonna leave. And I always told them, it's okay. It's okay to leave as long as you leave. For the right reason. Um, and I, and this mom leave bare this story about the process and what her son went through and the emotions he went through. And I think it validated for a lot of parents the concerns they have. So when they hear their kids saying they're unhappy about something, what's, is that a warning sign or the venting? Is it something I should talk to them about or should I let it go? All those things, it really validated that for people. Um, so whether their child stayed or left, they, they, they knew that other people had gone through similar, similar processes and similar, uh, experiences. Um, and it was okay to whatever the end result was. And God bless his mother, she said, at the end of the day, your kid's a great kid no matter what they do. And that, you know, I think that resonated with was, so to be able to share stories like that I think is, um, I, you know, I, I just, you see people, they, they really, they really take it to heart. They really take it to heart.Speaker 1:
Yeah, absolutely. And thanks. Thanks for sharing that. And that truly is a special cause. You joke that, that mrs Vermeer probably thought I was coming home. I think it goes more like my dad had to stop my mom from flying to Annapolis and pay and just dragging me out of there and saving me or anything else happened. Great. I'llSpeaker 3:
tell you an induction day when, um, when, when Noah said to me, I don't think that, I don't know that I can do this. My first thought was, good, let's get your stuff. Let's go home. We're outta here. We're done. We're going to go hiking and we're going to just, yeah, there's a number of times where, uh, you know, my wife would say, let's go to Annapolis right now. We're going to go right now. And I'd say, okay, and you gotta you know, you have to kind of switch the, the dad mode and say, okay, no, let's take a deep breath. And, um, so I, I think one of the great learnings, so we were talking about the, the learnings you get as a Naval Academy parent. One of the great learnings is to, to two things. One, give it some air, sometimes your kids just venting and because they're in this pressure cooker and they just have to have somewhere safe that they can say this is a disaster. I hate place. Everything's awful cool. Right? So I think that's important. The other thing is FIO let them figure it out because if there's one thing time and again where I think as a parent of a high schooler, you'd say, Oh my gosh, I have to fix this or I have to help them. You know what? No, they figure it out. They figure it out. I'm on pleat parent's weekend. No one brings home of these big mesh bags that you all get with all your gear, right? Cause I have to do some laundry. So he just takes this big bag full of stuff and throws it in the washer at the hotel and washes it in. My wife is mortified. That's how they do it. He figured it out, you know, I mean you said he had to wash his clothes. He said wash clothes. I'm, I'm, you know, I just let it go. You really learn as a parent that um, your, your kids will, they'll figure out how to, how to get their laundry done. They'll figure out how to get the, so I'll tell you this here, I'll tell you a story. This is a great one. I think it's, well, I think it's a great one. I think they're all great. But um, so Noah has a, a company mate knows about five 10. His company is about six four. And he, they, he came to our home for spring break for a couple of days and then he headed back to California. Well, it wasn't until we're getting ready to go back to Annapolis that my son realizes these pants are really long and they, they were warranted. They're wearing their summer whites. It's like these things are done to the floor and all I could think of is this company mates with these pants coming on flight. And I said, what are you gonna do guys? He's going to have to figure it out. You know, we taped up the pants he had and, and his company made figuring out a way to get home from California, these pants up to his knees. And I saw him next time he shrugged his shoulders, said, Mr. Smith, I just, you know, I had to walk through the airport floods. What am I going to do, what I'm doing? You know, I think that's just things you learn as a parent though. They will figure it out.Speaker 1:
That's funny. Uh, so by my plebe summer now thrown her way back to when I was a plead because we didn't label all of our clothes fast enough. Um, they decided, they're like, Oh, if you guys don't want to label your clothes, then we're just gonna throw all of your clothes into the center of the hallway, the pee way. And they're like, you guys have 10 seconds to get all of the clothes back into rooms and have fun sorting it out. It would have been a lot easier if you labeled your stuff. And so they throw it all out and like we run in and we grab all the clothes and bring her back to her room. So let's plead summer. You don't have time to like go through and pass back shirts. So to this, to this day I have a couple of like extra small blue rims that like are basically crop tops for me. And, and one actually was labeled, it's like labeled from one of the girls in my Academy. We just never came back. I just, I still have, I still have one of their blue ribs. So hilarious. But going back to your thing and figure it out at the Academy, and I've mentioned it before on Academy insiders, we have a book that we are given issued during plebe summer called message to Garcia, which is the whole premise of this book is literally figure it out, right? So it's this guy who's told like given a task with no direction and he's like, what am I supposed to do? And it's like, well I guess I'll figure it out. Like I've been, I've been given a task and now I'm going to use everything that I have in my arsenal to figure it out. And so, especially as a midshipman and especially now as a junior officer in the fleet, a lot of times you get that in military leadership, a lot of time at the lower levels as a junior officer is taking the initiative to figure something out and getting it and getting it done right. Like it might not be perfect. You might not separate your whites and your colors, but you do the laundry, right? It's clean, but it's clean and now you have clean clothes.Speaker 3:
That's a great lesson because I, you know, I've, I've worked in a couple of startups and that you learned that that mentality is so important, even in the, the non-military world. Um, instead of sitting around waiting for someone to tell you or waiting for something to happen, um, you just, you just, you figure it out and you make things happen. I think that makes for better leaders because that we tell, you know, you talk about the creative process, you know, creative process isn't just for people who write and paint and you know, finding a way to get something done that takes creativity. And I that that is something that you all were kind of, there was no class and creativity at the Academy, but learning how to figure it out, force you to be a more creative person. I'm certain.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'm just going to take a little time. It's kind of a shameless shameless plug here. Um, that that's honestly how Academy insider started. I had, I had a goal, I had a vision with my dad is how am I going to help give back to the parent community at the Naval Academy? Because my biggest regret at the Naval Academy was not effectively communicating to my mom and dad about what I was going through because it put them in tough situations. Everything we've been talking about so far in this episode, I put my parents through the maximum because I was terrible at communicating. It's a midshipman. And so I knew that I had a goal and a vision of helping ease that process for other parents by helping them understand what the midshipman experience was about. Well, how was I going to do that? I had no idea. So I wrote one blog post and then I started answering questions on a Facebook and now it's turned into this where I have an entire website, entire blog, a podcast, and all my course on it. I, but I just, I figured it out and I've[inaudible] and I'm still figuring it out. And every day I'm trying to continue to make this the best product that it can be so I can best serve my mission and help out the parent and Loveland community of the Naval Academy. And so it have you come on here and now share your stories and contribute to this. I just say thank you because this has been such a fun and special episode so far. We're not even done. We're not even close to done it. Um, but it's been great. And so thank you so much for coming on here and sharing these experiences and sharing these stories because together now as a community, as the Academy inside our community and as the parent community, we're just going to figure it out and we're going to try and make it better for the next set of families that go through. AndSpeaker 3:
absolutely, you're 100% right grant in that, you know, reading some of the stuff you wrote when my son was a plea made a difference. And that's, you know, as a, you know, when you create a product, whether it's a written product or anything and you make a difference, that's what it's all about. Right? Um, and you've done that. And um, and that one of the things about the Academy is because the S the pace is so fast, you don't realize, you know, we're going to service selection and before you know it, kids are going to start getting their, um, their nominations or appointments for the class of 2024 and the whole cycle is going to start over again. And we all kind of have to be ready to do our part again. So, you know what some people say, well, of course everybody knows. So what am I, you know, my absolute favorite, um, uh, tradition at the Academy is Herndon. And it's mostly because we were so emotional and we knew that for us was the finish line. We knew if we, if Noah made it to Herndon, we would make it as a family. Um, but I just told, I told one of the other, one of the moms just recently before though, Valenti came and said, well, the end of the plebe year is the Herndon. And, and I said, wait, they're going to go to the suburb, the Washington DC suburb and do a climb. Like, why are they going to her, her Virginia? Because I'm an idiot and I have no idea what they're talking about. And now you know, now you realize what it is and you can tell people it's all about her know what's hurting. Well, you know, what's the thing that looks like a mini Washington monument? And you can explain that. And I'm thinking, so when I write the blog and the things I put in the book, I'm thinking, here's some things I wish I had known, you know, before, before we kind of crash landed on induction day. You know, and I think you're right. So to have the, the Academy insider community and these, uh, kind of these satellite parent communities on Facebook, just to be able to, to just make it a more enjoyable, and frankly, this is something else I would think about as part of what you're helping to make happen is you were talked about all the tough times. You go through the Academy and then the things you enjoy, what you start to enjoy it when you understand it. So the sooner you understand it, the sooner you can enjoy it. So, you know, I think that that, and again, it's finite, it's four years start to finish. So you want to enjoy as much of it as you can. So if you can help people get another week of enjoyment out of it, that's, that's, that's an accomplishment. Absolutely. Fantastic. Well, also I want to make a transition now. So let's transition to, um, a book that you have recently published called anchored in transition. If you don't mind just telling the audience a little bit about what it's about. Uh, and then what was your motivation for writing that book? Why you decided to, sure. So anchored in tradition is, um, it's a small book. It's an easy read. And uh, as a writer, you know, you if you feel compelled to share stories. Um, one thing that, um, I thought about when I was doing this kind of started coming to, to to mind was all these little things about the Academy that you pick up. What is Herndon, you know, uh, is there, I heard there's a crypt in the chapel. Is it really a dead body in the chapel? Um, wait, there's only one dorm. How do they fit 4,000 people in a dorm? You know, did David Robinson really did this seven foot guy really go to the Naval Academy? All these things. And I thought if I, if these are all these little tidbits that I would love to have known before I became a Naval Academy parent. Um, so I just started to kind of collect them. And as a writer, you always know you're going to write a book at some point. And I always thought you either write the great American novel or some big omnibus piece, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought, you know what the kind of books I wanted to kind of books I really enjoy are books you can pick up, open to any page and just start reading and pick something off. So that's the way I constructed the book, uh, into little bits and pieces. So, um, if you're, if you're on a plane and you're, you could flip through a couple pages and someone distracts you or they come by with a drink cart, you can stop and not feel like you've, you know, you've got, you've lost a plot, if you will. Um, so I just started researching. I start thinking, look, let's talk about all these cool things at the Academy. Uh, and just started compiling them and um, you know, try to add some things, a little quizzes. Cause as you've been, you were writing about, um, a lot about the pronouns which pleads of course get drilled out. So that's, you know, let's, how do you rate how much you can, you can learn a little bit, uh, learn a little bit. Um, and just share some of the jokes cause you see these, these, you know, these military jokes and just to kind of collect them cause there's nothing, what I always tell people is if you pick up the book and you read it, you can carry on a conversation with some of the Naval Academy and sound at least like, you know what you're talking about. Right? Or if there's a party you can share a joke and you at least will get a smile at somebody. Absolutely. And can confirm as rallies out there. I have read the book anchored in tradition. It's, it's funny. And what I, what I loved about it is having been a midshipman going through it, there were plenty of things where even I was like, like I actually did and I didn't even know that. Uh, so for anyone who, evenSpeaker 1:
if you don't know anything about the Academy, obviously a great place to start. Even if you do know about the Academy, there are a lot of really great things in here and a couple of great jokes too. Like you're saying, a bunch of a bunch of good military jokes, which always come in handy. So just, just fantastic. And thank you for taking the time to put that together. Cause I do think it'll, um, as we talk about creating things that just positively influence and positively impact our community, uh, I think it definitely does that. So thank you. Oh my pleasure. Thanks for, thanks for bringing it up. Uh, and as, as you were writing that, what were some of the favorite things that you discovered about the Naval Academy through your research and through your development process of creating this book? Um, I was,Speaker 3:
I was intrigued by, um, some of the history, so, you know, learn a little bit more about John Paul Jones, who's this mythic figure in the Navy, um, and T and because Hernan's one of my favorite tradition to research Herndon himself. And this kind of, um, and this is one of the things where you, as the former journalist in me, I really want to know the true story, but as a writer, I love the story of him putting his uniform back on, going to the, the bow of the ship and then going down with the ship. That's kind of, you know, this larger than life moment. Um, so coming up with, to, to see some of the history behind that, the history behind Dahlgren where, you know, it's this building, which I love. I've always loved dogs because of the lights over the, you know, at the inside of the ceiling and the glider up there. But Dave, you said building for, you know, everything but nuclear tests it seems, I mean, that thing's been the armory, it's an ice rink and you know, and they do indoor drills in there now and there's a restaurant. It's just to be fascinated on how the, how it's evolved and, um, you know, to be able to write about the army Navy game and try to dig into some things that maybe people didn't realize. And, uh, the, the epicness of David Robinson's time there. Um, some of the, you know, some of the folks who've kind of gone through, when you start to piece, one of the things I, I hope people can take out of that is you look at the breadth of what's covered in there. You know, we have some sports, there's these, you know, kind of the, these mythic figures like Jones and, and Herndon and more contemporary people like Robinson and Starbuck. And you really get a sense for the tradition and the depth and the impact that the Academy has had across the decades. And just that it's really, you know, a lot of people will say, what's a military Academy? Yes. Obviously it is, but it has impacts beyond that. You know, it's produced a president. It's produced one of the greatest basketball players of all time, you know, and it's, it's just, it's an integral part of our country's history and that's, um, you know, to be able to kind of pull all that together was a lot of fun.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Uh, well thank you. Thank you for pulling this together. And again, for anyone who's listening, I will put a link to purchase, anchor to transition or transition in tradition anchored in tradition. We'll put a link of that in the show notes so you can make sure to go check it out. All right, now we're gonna transition to our lightning round of questions here that we can do on Academy insider and although not amid shim and you have spent plenty of time around the Naval Academy, so you still get a lot of the same questions. The first of which, and this is great because you're talking about how much you love the Naval Academy, but like the actual yard and the campus. What is your favorite spot on the yard?Speaker 3:
It's still Herndon. I love, I still love going to her and every time, you know why grant, I go by it now and I think pretty soon there's going to be a thousand parents are going to be totally relieved. Their life is going to be changed.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. And you mentioned the restaurant in Bancroft hall, steerage, which I'm a personal fan of. You got a C Sparrow on on some tough nights. You know, long nights you're like, Oh, this is going to be a terrible night. I'm definitely going to go steerage. She gets these Barrow, which is some chicken tenders and fries and a smoothie and you're just like, all right, it's going to be a terrible night. But at least I'm happy,Speaker 3:
a little fat, dumb and happy.Speaker 1:
But on the topic of food now, obviously not a King hall here, but what is your and your family's favorite place to eat in Annapolis?Speaker 3:
Slam dunk. Iron rooster. We are, in fact, when we were looking for our house for commissioning week, we needed to find a place that the grandmother could get to, you know, stepwise. It needed to be dog-friendly and it had to be within walking distance. The other area, we hit a home run on it. So yeah, we absolutely love that. Love it.Speaker 1:
Oh, that's fantastic. All right, and this episode again, we've talked about your book, but how about this? What is your favorite book to read?Speaker 3:
Is this Academy or, or overall? Overall, or both? Whatever you want. Okay. I would say I can read anything by Hunter Thompson. To this day. He's the one who made me fall in love with writing. So anything by him or anything by talking, those would be the two authors I could reach a spend anything up. Yeah. I will say about the Academy. I am a big fan of a Chester midship mouse. I just think it's just, it's one of those books I read and see, gosh, I wish I were that clever. I wish I were clever enough to think about that. But it just, you know, Susan's, I'm a big fan of her work.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Fantastic. All right, well we've talked about in the term that you've used a lot, the emotional roller coasters of being a parent and even being a midshipman at the Academy. We've talked about some of the tough times, some of the good times, but up to this point, what has been your greatest memory from your time around the Naval Academy?Speaker 3:
Um, my greatest memory will be, would be walking on the field after the sprint championship last year when they beat army to win it all. And, um, you know, my son works so hard to get on that team and then an earnest starting spot and then for them to win the championship, it just, you know, it is a F as his former coach and his father just, you know, one of those moments like I can't believe my son just did that. That was without question. The best moment that says special beat army, Navy beat army. Yes, we got them tomorrow night. We're going to do it again. Repeat. I love it. LoveSpeaker 1:
it. All right. And then the final question is what advice would you give to parents, and I know we've given tons of advice throughout this, but if you could just give one piece of advice to a parent with a son or daughter thinking about attending the Naval Academy, what would you offer them in this process of making their college decision? Yeah, great question.Speaker 3:
I counsel any parent whose child is considering this one for you to get informed so you understand what it means, don't let them interpret it for you. You do the research, you do the work to find out what it means. And help them, help them through it and help them to see the whole picture, the good, the bad, the ugly, and to be prepared for failure. Yeah. Another story, I'll take people out of time. My son said to me when he started, a place is dead. Do you think I'll get, I said, absolutely not. My, my daughter said the sense she's, what do you think? I said, Nope, I'm just playing the odds. You know when you get in you are beating not your 90% of the kids who applied don't get in. So you have to be fully prepared. And just because you don't get in doesn't mean you're a failure. It doesn't mean you're any less of a person. It's just that's not where you belong and you will, you will bloom where you're planted. But I think as a parent, if you go in and you understand your child's motivation, so like to your point grant, you said whatever reason they're there for is the right reason. But you should understand what that reason is. Yes. And you should understand what it means to be there and what it means to be from there. You know, cause there's always that adage, it's a great place to be from, you know, it's understanding and then to prepare your child for'em neither good nor bad. Just what happens if you don't get it. I think that, you know, I try not to make decisions for my kids cause what I'll tell them those you can make any decision you want but you can't choose the consequences. And if they choose to go to the Naval Academy, this is what they are. Some of the things that are going to happen and good and bad and you have to make that decision. And if you can help your kids see that because they're 18 and I wish I was as smart as I thought I was at 18. Um, you know, you have to help them see that. If they can see that then I think that makes it easier for them in the long run.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time, for your stories, for your advice and your insight. We really appreciate it. And if someone wanted to know more about you, about your work, um, where would you direct them to and how can, how can they learn more about you?Speaker 3:
Um, I think that the best place would be my kid, the mid, which is the, the blog, my kid, the mid.com. Um, I try to write there a couple times a month, uh, and there's contact information there. Um, and they can get ahold of me and I hope they do. Cause I, like I said, I, I, I've treasured the input from people and I love the feedback and, um, you know, I'm looking forward to meeting more parents before my, before the, the little red button pops out and I'm no longer a Naval Academy parents.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. Well, Carl, thank you so much for taking the time to come on here. Uh, this has been such a fun episode, uh, to record with you. Such a fun conversation to have and I think a really important conversation that'll provide a ton of insight to a lot of people. So thank you for joining us on Academy insider. Thanks for the time, Greg. I appreciate it. Yeah. Hey, beat army. Absolutely. All right. It's the Academy of Saturday. Audience. Thank you so much and I hope you guys have a great day. Thank you guys so much for listening to the podcast. I really hope you enjoyed it. Leave me a review on iTunes and be sure to subscribe to the Academy inside of podcasts. If you want to learn more about the Naval Academy experience. I know in this episode we talked a lot about the parent experience, uh, but if you want to learn more about the actual midshipman experience, make sure to check out my webpage, www.academyisthator.com or you can go to my Facebook page, Academy insider. In this episode we talked a lot about a bunch of different links, so we talked about books, we talked about his blog, my kid, the mid and all those things. If you want to look into those any further, we'll post all links in the show notes, so make sure to go check those out. Again, I'm grant Famir your Academy insider and thank you so much for letting me be your guide to the United States Naval Academy.