One of the most remarkable programs at the Naval Academy is the midshipmen sponsor program. Families throughout the greater Annapolis area sign up to sponsor midshipmen starting plebe year. These generous families sometimes have military experience, but some are families who want to serve their community by providing a second home to these young military members who come from all over the country and the world – often, far from home.
While a sponsor family might sign up formally for one midshipman, they often find many more coming into their homes. Connections with sponsors start early. Sponsors feed midshipman – both literally and figuratively. They provide havens for Mids to kick off their shoes and relax without the constraints of the Academy. These connections help young midshipmen navigate the challenges of life at the Academy. But sponsorship does not end at graduation.
In my case, these connections lasted for a lifetime.
For me, I had multiple sponsors with only one formally assigned to me. The first family had me over for dinner most Saturday nights my first year. They were my lifeline to the family I missed, being so far away from home. My second and third families had been senior military officers and spouses. They showed me what it meant to become part of a military family. Through them I learned that home is not a place but is where you are and who you are stationed with.
Certainly, the Naval Academy taught us how to become Naval Officers, but my sponsor families taught me how to “be” a Naval Officer. They taught me how to conduct myself socially in an environment that was completely unfamiliar to me or anyone in my family. They provided advice when I moved, welcomed my family into theirs, and cheered me on with every promotion. Whenever I was in the area, a quick call “Hey I’m in town” resulted in a warm place to stay, good food and heartfelt conversation. Just today one of my colleagues (also a retired Captain) told me he is spending the night with his sponsor.
Sponsors beget sponsors. That is how the cycle works. Now I am as sponsor. This Thanksgiving we are opening our home open to students, neighbors, or friends who need a place to eat, land and “be” at home. You don’t have to be in the Annapolis area or in the military to be a sponsor.
You can do it right where you are.
Is there someone at work or in your community or in your sphere of influence who might benefit from a meal at your home or a few words of life guidance? Please make the investment and become a sponsor.
Let us give thanks for all the families who give so readily of themselves to sponsor others.
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