“My West Point Experience” In her own words …

by Kathryn Seyer

June 4th, 2020 | News, News and Features

Looking back now and reflecting on what my 47-month experience has been, I couldn’t imagine ending it any other way than celebrating with my classmates.
The phrase “cooperate to graduate” holds a special place in my heart as I had tons of family, friends, classmates, instructors, coaches and trainers help shove me across the finish line known as graduation and commissioning.
My first two years at the academy were pretty normal. I focused on school and eventually decided on majoring in systems engineering with a minor in aeronautical engineering. I was on the Army Women’s Swim and Dive team as a diver. It took me a little bit to learn how to balance school and being a corps squad athlete, but I eventually made it work.
I became friends with my company mates, the H-1 Roothawgs. I even joined a club, the staff that puts together the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA). All in all, I settled into my daily routine and by the end of my yearling year I had placed at the Patriot League Conference Championships, made friendships I knew would last a lifetime, made the Dean’s List every semester, went to Israel as a Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative Fellow, been selected to be the Chief of Staff for SCUSA 70, had an awesome AIAD at Redstone Arsenal working with the Aviation Test Flight Directorate and was on my way to affirming my commitment to the academy and the Army.
Then I jumped off of a cliff, literally. The last weekend before my cow year, I decided to go cliff jumping. When I landed in the water, my foot hit a rock and I shattered my calcaneus, my heel bone. I had to get airlifted out of the gorge I was in and taken immediately to a hospital.
I flew up to Walter Reed a couple of days later to get surgery and then headed back to West Point for reorganization week. When I got to Walter Reed, my surgeons gave me the harsh reality: my dreams of being in the Army were over and I would be lucky if I was able to walk again. My calcaneus was shattered into more than 50 pieces. The surgeons told me to not affirm as there was no way I would ever make it through the physical and military demands of the academy.
They said they could fix me up just enough to maybe have a chance at walking. I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. My TAC officer sent me the affirmation counseling to sign a few days after the first hard conversation with the surgeons. That was the moment that I decided I would do whatever it took to give myself the opportunity to graduate.
I think my parents were a little nervous that my expectation was a little too high to put on myself, but they supported me and were there through it all. After waiting at Walter Reed for two weeks for the swelling in my foot to go down enough to operate, I told my surgeon that I had signed the affirmation paperwork anyways and the only way I wouldn’t be graduating was if the Army decided to kick me out.
The surgery was as successful as it could have been and after waiting at Walter Reed a week post-op, I finally got the go-ahead to return to West Point. But this return had one condition, I could not walk for three-and-a -half months and I had to use a knee scooter to get around post.
I was a little nervous as I had already missed the first three weeks of the academic year, but I reminded myself of the commitment I made and went back to school. The next couple of months were tough. I felt like I should have listened to the surgeons and left the academy. The only thing I could focus on was school, and I felt really behind all of my classmates physically.
The progress was incredibly slow and by Christmas break I could only walk with a boot on for about 10 hours a day. Anything past that and I was writhing in pain. Over Christmas break, I had a serious conversation with my parents about leaving the academy. But, I decided to stick it out and see if I could make it to the end of cow year.
I leaned on my company mates heavily and they were there for me through thick and thin. I made it to the end of cow year, but still had to pass the real test—CLDT.
I thought CLDT was going to physically tough, and I was right, but even more than that it was emotionally tough. On June 6, 2019, our CLDT company and the Class of 2020 lost Cadet Christopher Morgan. Chris and I had recently become friends as I began dating a member of the wrestling team, my now fiancé, Jack. Chris knew how to light up a room and I remember the fun we had down at the Firstie Club and bonfires at South Dock during the previous Grad Week.
Our class, and especially F Company, really came together that day and in the rest of our time at CLDT. In the days that followed losing Chris, I learned the true meaning of resiliency. Resiliency isn’t about just sucking it up, forgetting what you went through and continuing on. It’s about finding the strength to fight every second of every day, but also being willing to lean on the people around you.
I could not and would not have made it through CLDT without the support and encouragement from my entire platoon and company. They were there for me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.
Seeing the love the wrestling team and the rest of my class had for Chris and for one another and their strength in the days after losing Chris, it gave me the hope that we were going to get through it and that he was with us and would be with us every day following.
We all made it through CLDT and the rest of the summer and eventually got to firstie year. After thinking I would never be able to dive again due to my heel, I got back on the boards and was able to compete at every meet for Army this season.
I was the commander for SCUSA 71 where I got to meet and talk with some of the smartest, most intellectually gifted people I had every met. I bonded with my teammates like I never had before, made new friendships that will last a lifetime and began to understand the incredible responsibility that was waiting for us at the end of this road on May 23.
I thought that firstie year would just fly by and go off without a hitch. But, on Oct. 22, 2019, H-1 lost a member of our family, Kade Kurita. I again saw the strength of my classmates, company mates and cadets around West Point as we all grieved the loss of Kade. Kade taught me how to be intentional with every conversation you have with someone. Whenever Kade saw one of his friends, he always made sure to ask how they were, but you could tell he genuinely wanted to know and would be willing to sit there for hours listening to you if you were having a bad day.
That is the biggest piece of leadership knowledge I gained at West Point, to always be willing to listen, and I learned it from Kade. As the weeks passed on, our class reached more milestones—Branch Night (ESSAYONS!), I finally took an IOCT (and passed on my first try!), 100th Night, Post Night and I couldn’t imagine how fast it seemed to fly by.
My diving career ended with a trip to the Patriot League Championships and my teammates and I were excited to spend the rest of our nights down at the Firstie Club.
I was looking forward to closing out my time at the academy with the people who had supported me through the disaster that was cow year and firstie summer. Then, COVID-19 happened and we lost the end of our firstie year.
I’m sure some Old Grads are saying it’s a fitting end for a class that only had half a plebe year, but either way it is a tough reality to face.
Our class, and the academy as a whole, had to quickly adapt to online classes, virtual TAC leadership discussions and my personal favorite Zoom Happy Hours.
After eight weeks of West Point Online version, the Class of 2020 finally made it to the end of the academic year! But our time at West Point is far from over. Last week, we started heading back to the banks of the Hudson to end our time as cadets and transition into being second lieutenants.
I look forward to seeing my friends and getting to thank my instructors, TACs, trainers, mentors and coaches for helping me get to the finish line. My time at the academy was a lot different and a lot harder than I ever thought it would be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I met my best friends and the people who have shaped me into the leader and person I am today. Against all odds, I will be graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and commissioning as an Engineer officer in the U.S. Army!