Roosevelt Military Academy has graduated some very proud students. Jim Kilpatrick is one of those. This author has brought forward a book for all to read and be able to enjoy events from his academy life there in the 60s. Come with us now to read and share with Jim his high school life there. Expect to be amused and serious all in one sitting.
– Excerpt from Stand at Ease –
To tell the truth, my first few days and nights at the Academy were the loneliest I have ever experienced. I had never been away from home for long periods of time before. Suddenly, I felt the loneliness deep inside me. I realized that my parents were on their way back to Wake Island, some 5,500 miles away, and I was truly on my own in a strange place, surrounded by complete strangers. The realization that for the first time in my life I was alone, without my parents hit me hard. Yet coming to the Academy was my choice so I would have to live with that choice.
My roommate, a senior, Jack, turned into a great guy. We roomed together my entire first year and he helped me to adjust to my new world. Jack really made a difference in my struggle to adjust. He became a real friend, who was there for me if I needed him.
Jack, however, did have a habit that almost drove me out the second story window of our room. It was the second or third night on campus, when I found myself unable to sleep. I was lying in the top bunk. Taps had blown and lights were out. I was very homesick and it had gotten worse over the short time since my parents had departed. Of course, I had felt I would be okay, but as more time slipped away, the more I longed for the comfort of my home and parents, and not the four walls of my room at RMA.
As we lay in our bunks, Jack and I whispered softly so as not to be heard by anyone that might be patrolling the halls. Jack was trying to comfort me and make me feel more at home in the unfamiliar confines. He told me it was alright and that many cadets suffered with homesickness and not to worry it would go away in time.
There was a full moon out and it shown through the window, lighting the room very well. We had been talking for maybe a half an hour and I was beginning to feel relaxed. I asked him what the battalion was going to do the next day on the parade grounds and he gave no response. I repeated the question and still got no response. I rolled over to the edge of the bunk and leaned over so I was looking down at Jack. I saw that his eyes were wide open but they were not moving. I leaned over further and fell out of bed hitting the floor with a resounding bang.
Now, the sound of me hitting the floor rang through room, but Jack didn’t move. He just lay there motionless. Fear leaped into my brain—was Jack dead? I crawled to the lower bunk and looked at the body lying there. I reached up, grabbed his shoulder and shook him. While I was shaking, I was yelling at the top of my voice.
“Jack’s dead, my God, Jack’s dead.”
This brought two reactions. The first was Jack sitting up in his bunk demanding to know what the hell was going on and the second was the company commander bursting into the room demanding what the hell was happening. I kept pointing at Jack; saying he was dead with his eyes were wide open.
Standing with his hands on his hips, my first Company Commander Jim, also a senior, was not happy about being awakened by a freshman plebe screaming about someone being dead when they weren’t. There was no kindness in the orders that were issued, nor in the tone in which they were delivered. I was informed in no uncertain terms to get in bed, keep my mouth shut, and go to sleep or else. I didn’t ask what the or else meant. I learned later all the old time cadets on the company floor knew Jack slept with his eyes open. It seems I was the only one that didn’t. I wonder if they planned it.