Thursday, April 18, 2024

Williamsburg Woman Reflects on First Semester at West Point

Cadet Kathryn Miller with her father Col. Jake Miller during March Back from Beast. (Photo by USMA PAO)

WILLIAMSBURG — Kathryn Miller, a Jamestown High School Class of 2023 graduate, has done a lot since leaving the halls of JHS.

Miller was nominated by teachers at Jamestown High School to write an essay as part of the annual Good Citizen Award contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. She had a two-hour timed, proctored essay where the prompt was kept a secret until the two hours began.

In June, Miller was named the National Good Citizen Award Recipient by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The Williamsburg Chapter had decided earlier in the year that she was the chapter winner, Miller then went on to the state competition where she won. She then won the eastern division and represented Virginia nationally. Out of 4,679 total entries, Miller was chosen as the national winner.

“I was completely shocked. It was very humbling. I kept getting calls after each round that I had advanced to the next part of the competition and it was so surreal,” Miller said.

During a ceremony at the DAR National Congress, Miller received a scholarship of $10,000 for winning the essay contest. She was presented with an award and honored by all in attendance.

However, Miller could not be present at the award ceremony. Days prior, she had just completed her indoctrination into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

After being accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, in addition to the U.S. Military Academy, it was her childhood dream to attend West Point that made her decision.

“My dad taught at West Point when I was little. I attended preschool and kindergarten at West Point Elementary School. I’ve lived in ten states, I went to eight schools, and throughout my whole life I always knew I wanted to end up back at West Point. When I visited West Point, I just had this instant connection that it was exactly where I was supposed to be,” Miller said.

Beast Squad Mates, Cadet Kathryn Miller (left) and Cadet Erika Nyberg (courtesy of Cadet Kathryn Miller)

Cadet Miller’s summer was unlike that of her peers. Instead of saying goodbye throughout the months and spending time making memories with high school friends, Miller was in basic cadet (also known as BEAST) training without access to a phone. Days at West Point are long and with only letters from home to get her through, the days got taxing early on.

“I wanted to make both my family and myself proud. My family wrote to me throughout Beast and their letters and words of encouragement really kept me going, in addition to the letters and support I received from my friends throughout the summer was super motivating. I never questioned or thought about giving up because I was so motivated by my support system,” Miller said.

During her six-week basic cadet training, Miller spent days learning the ins and outs of military life. There were ruck marches, weapons training, land navigation, repelling off mountains, runs, and physical training, no matter the weather. In heavy rain or extreme heat, basic cadet training continues.

“People tried to tell me that it’s really hard. Until I went through it myself, I don’t think I could have imagined how hard it would be. It’s one of those things where once you do it yourself, you realize how hard it is. Throughout it all, I learned that I was more capable than I ever knew. I knew it was going to be hard but I like doing hard things,” Miller recalled.

After basic cadet training, there was no break. Classes began immediately at the academy, and Miller jumped right in. An undeclared major until spring semester begins, Miller was taking STEM courses, while also balancing life as a member of the West Point Triathlon team.

Miller’s days begin at 5 a.m. and she’s in the pool by 5:30. Her morning swim practice lasts until 6:30 a.m. and mandatory breakfast formation begins at 7 a.m. Her morning classes go on until noon when lunch formation begins. After lunch, it’s back to the classroom before another two-hour triathlon team practice. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. and then it’s time for homework and studying. Miller usually heads to bed at 10 or 11 p.m.

While the military and life at the academy can be tough, Miller has always faced every obstacle with a smile on her face alongside her battle buddies.

“There were nights where we were sitting out in the pouring rain, eating our MREs, and it’s almost comical. You kind of have this moment where you think ‘oh my god, I can’t even believe I’m doing this right now’. The way to get through it all was leaning on the people around me for support and we all helped each other through,” Miller said.

As the new semester at West Point kicks off on Jan. 5, Miller imparted some wisdom to young boys and girls who may want to enter West Point one day.

“Going to a military academy is totally worth it. A lot of people are intimidated by the lack of freedom and think that it’s really hard. Something I’ve always known is that nothing that comes easy is worth having. It’s exactly how I feel about my experience at West Point. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s so worth it and when I think about the opportunities that West Point provides and the amazing people I’ve met, the education I’m getting, it’s the best place to be.”

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