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Four Years at the Mount

Senior year

Forever flying freely

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

(6/2015) A little less than a month ago, I walked into the library and approached a group of individuals I had never met before, a task that is more daunting to me than anyone will ever come to understand. The man opposite me at the top of the circle commanded their attention, which he immediately threw at me upon my appearance. "Who are you?" he asked. I kind of smiled and stared at him for a split second before I registered the phrase as a question. "Oh," I mustered, "I’m Katie, the new senior writer." In about thirty seconds flat, Michael Hillman had debriefed me on my new position, leaving me bewildered, but determined to succeed.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Katie Powell, and as I mentioned, I am the new senior writer for the Four Years at the Mount column. I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity, and I cannot wait to share my world with you all. I am a health science major at the Mount, and my focus is in occupational therapy with a minor in psychology. After my final year, I plan to attend graduate school to complete my degree and then enter the workforce. During my time at the Mount I have held many positions around campus. I am a Mount Presidential Ambassador, which allows me to share my love for the Mount with prospective students through campus tours.

I am also an Ambassador for Leadership. As part of the new Veritas curriculum at the Mount, every senior must complete an e-folio page and make a presentation to a committee of faculty and students about their time at the Mount. My job as an Ambassador is to sit in on these presentations and give students advice during the process of preparing their e-folios and presentations.

In addition to these positions, I have been a member of the women’s swim team at the Mount throughout the last three years, and I am excited to finish out my career as a senior this year. I am a distance swimmer, meaning my events range from 200 to 1,650 meters. Training at the Division 1 level requires a 20-hour weekly time commitment, but swimming has been such a huge part of my life that I cannot imagine not competing.

Through swimming, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), which exists on the national level in all NCAA schools. This past year, it was my responsibility to come up with community service initiatives for the student athletes at the Mount, and then help plan and execute them. I also helped advertise for other events that SAAC was hosting. These events include fundraisers, clothing drives, informative or inspirational talks, and entertainment.

A final thing to know about me is that I am a homebody at heart. My family is the most important to me, and my roots run deep in South Jersey, and I defend my home state to the death, as any good Jersey-ite should. My parents are both teachers, and my dad taught AP US History II for many years. We have always flown a flag in front of our yard, and we’ve received many a mini history lesson on D-Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and — you guessed it —Flag Day. Every year we’d watch the documentaries on the History Channel or get our lecture on what it means, and my sister Kelsey and I would look at each other and roll our eyes.

This year, Flag Day has taken on a greater significance to my family and me than it ever has. My younger sister contracted with the Army in January, halfway through her freshman year at Widener University. After graduation, she will be an officer in the United States Army.

Flag Day is meant to be a day to commemorate the adoption of the United States flag we see today. Flag Day to me has always been a reminder of the sacrifice that our ancestors have made in order for us to have that flag and the freedom it represents. From now on, it will be a reminder of the sacrifice that my own sister is making to defend our flag and our nation.

Kelsey’s current status is as a contracted Army ROTC cadet at Widener, which is the host school for the dauntless battalion. Upon graduation, she will commission as a 2LT in the United States Army. She will be an officer, meaning she will be leading enlisted women and men.

Because of the military’s personal significance to my family now, I decided to discuss with Kelsey how Flag Day is viewed and treated by the military. Her immediate response: "In the military, every day is Flag Day," she snickered.

She admitted that she was unsure about any actual Flag Day events, but explained further that the military avoids specialized behaviors on specific days, so they honor the flag every day. For example, there is a ceremony at sunset every single day to lower the colors properly, which is done in militant style, ending with the folding of the flag into its traditional triangle shape, all with uniformed cadets saluting. Kelsey claimed that if a cadet is in uniform, they always salute the flag as they pass by.

Before getting involved in Air Force Junior ROTC in high school, Kelsey’s feelings toward Flag Day were probably no different from any other 14 year-old. She did the class activities, colored in the flag pictures, probably listened to the "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" poem every year of elementary school, but never felt a personal connection to the flag. She recognized it as being important, but didn’t understand why a flag needed its own day. Five years later, many of her thoughts about the flag have changed. Joining the ROTC program changed her perspective entirely.

"Since joining and contracting, I felt a wave of obligation and commitment over me to protect and honor the flag," she explained. One of Kelsey’s greatest adventures will be this coming June when she attends a cadet training camp, during which she will get to experience Flag Day with the military, while training to better protect the American flag.

Kelsey credits her military science classes with giving her newfound appreciation for the flag. "Our flag is the symbol of our freedom, the freedom I plan on defending as an Army officer," she stated. Her military science classes provide her with not only the knowledge she needs to become an officer, but also the importance of the army values, respect, and loyalty. These values are instilled into each and every officer and enlisted soldier, and they give Flag Day special meaning. These individuals have signed their lives away to protect this nation, and they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Kelsey clarified, "To so many, the flag is a symbol that fills them with pride, as it reminds them of what they are fighting for, what they are truly defending."

The flag was born from rebellion, in a time where American soldiers were renegades. This nation was built upon the backs of battle-broken men and shell-shocked soldiers returning from the warfront, with nothing but a burning desire to change the status quo fueling their conquests. Soldiers feel a duty to protect the flag’s stars and stripes and keep them forever flying freely.

Read other articles by Katie Powell