R egardless, thank you on behalf of Session 277 for the struggles you endured over these two and a half months. We would not have been successful here without your unconditional love and support. Also, I want to thank my session mates, for electing a millennial as your spokesperson. If you’re shocked by that, keep in mind I’m a police officer. The stress makes me look 52, but I’m only 34. There are so many stories I want to tell you about who we are, as a Session. Some I will, and, for the preservation of what little dignity we may have left, some I will not. I considered start- ing by calling everyone out by name, which wouldn’t take very long because at times it’s felt like almost every man’s name is Carl, Josh, Jim, Dave, Tom, Tim, John, Jason, Mike, or Sean, and almost every woman’s name is Kelly, Kristen, Kristine, Crystal, or Connie. There were many suggestions about what should be ad- dressed in this speech, like giving a shout-out to my back up danc- ers, karaoke partners, reminding my friends to fix their face, or any number of ridiculous and traumatic moments in PT wherein we were assaulted not only by our PT instructors… but by whatever was left on the mats by the class before us. To be clear, I’m not re- ferring to how hard they worked and “left everything on the mats”. I’m referring to dirt, sweat, blood… and hair. It’s a miracle no one here got ring worm. One of the fit challenges did stand out, and that was the “Winged Monkey Assault”. We were allowed to create our own groups to run through the exercise. As we went through, I couldn’t help but hear loud voices counting off in unison toward the middle of the track. There was a sizeable group calling out repeti- tions in cadence. The man in the middle, leading the exercise, was a Marine. There seemed to be several former and active service mem- bers in this group, and I thought, well that must be the military group. I was in the “can barely breathe group. As I rounded the track with my group, later in the challenge, another Marine was organizing the military group – as I called it – on the track, in proper lanes, to run in cadence and he yelled with grit, “We finish together!” It gave me chills then, and gives me chills today… as we fin- ish together. It doesn’t matter what country you are from, please stand if you are or were a member of the military, and please – everyone - join me in thanking them for their service. Another thank you to our international students who have come frommore than 30 countries to join us in this adventure, and who have taught us so much about their countries, cultures, and practices. You’ve also taught us a great deal about our own culture, which was a perspective valuable to all of us as Ameri- cans. Except for you, Canada. You’re one of us… Thank you for your contributions, your talent, your compassion, and your patience. We are all better for having shared this experience with you. International students please stand and accept our gratitude. Also, everyone here should know – if you don’t already – and should recognize – if you haven’t already – we have a record holder in the house. At a five minute and two second mile, direct from Session 277’s Section 1, the new record holder for the fastest National Academy mile time, from New York State Police, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Lt. Colin Sweeney! Colin broke the previous record of 5:08.
He had impeccable form and as we all watched in awe as he ran… suddenly I realized I’ve been running all wrong. So later I copied him, mimicked his form, and I ran like a gazelle for as long and as fast as I could. And for those three seconds, I felt like a true runner. So thank you for that moment. We have been told that the NA – which officially stands for National Academy – actually has a secret second meaning of Nev- er Again. For those of you who’ve heard me talk about St. Louis, perhaps you’ll Never Again visit there… unarmed. And for some of us that means that we will Never Again have to run a timed mile… I’ll be honest – that’s me. In all seriousness, the NA that stands for Never Again is a direct reference to the experiences we’ve shared here in which many of us will Never Again have the opportunity to participate. One such experience stood out to me, and touched me so deeply, I’m compelled to share it with you. On August 11, those of us who took the trip to New York were granted access to the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan. Never Again will we be given private access to an unfinished floor of the Freedom Tower and hear first-hand accounts from Port Authority Officers of the horrifying events of September 11. Never Again will we have the opportunity to skip the lines of people waiting for admission to the sacred underground museum whose relics and stories bring us right back to that beautiful September morning in 2001. I mentioned already that I’m a millennial. That means dif- ferent things to different people, but I want to assure you I’m an elder millennial and that should garner a tad more respect. I know how to manually roll down a car window, I’m adept at using a rotary telephone, I drive a manual transmission, and for a brief moment in my childhood I knew the use of a phone book and a road map. So long as Google exists, however, Never Again will I use either a phone book or a road map. Never Again. Aside from those things, it also means that on September 11, 2001 I was in my Junior year of high school. As we finished in gym class, we heard over the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York. And as I say this, all of you are likely recalling where you were that morning. Many of my classmates sitting in this room today were already on the job. Many of them responded for rescue. Many responded on recovery missions. Many of them lost friends and family on that day. Many of them are still losing friends and family as a result of 9/11. What did we say as a nation after 9/11? Never Again. Never Again did we want to experience the unimaginable horror of that day, a day that changed our nation – and the world – forever. Never Again could we allow it. It was a somber walk through the halls of the museum. It was chilling to see – in person – destroyed fire trucks, to hear – from voicemails – the voices of some who had lost their lives, and it awakened a raging pride within me to be able to honor the first responders who lost their lives that day. Never Again would they go home. Never Again would they see their children, their spouses, their parents. Never Again would they be called upon to serve here on this earth.
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