“Shave my head, give me a uniform and run me around for seven weeks!”
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School senior and Fondrenite Charlie Sewell is ready for his “Plebe” Summer at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Sewell is one of four seniors from St. Andrew’s accepted to one of the nation’s prestigious military academies, a four-year educational opportunity and commitment to military service, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He found out in March during school track team workouts. That is when a drink of water turned into a celebration.
“My dad had been bugging me about setting up my voicemail,” Sewell recounted, knowing a call was hopefully coming soon.
“I finished my warm up and grabbed my bottle. My phone was sitting right-side-up and I noticed I had two missed calls. One was from Steve Guyton (whose job as Military Academy Representative is to help students solidify military academy nominations) and one from (U.S. Sen.) Cindy Hyde Smith’s office to tell me I was accepted.”
First stop? Home, to tell his mother, Kim, who Sewell said is “excited to see me in the uniform.”
Phone calls to friends followed. So did a visit to John, his father, at his office at Millsaps College.
“He paraded me around (among his co-workers). He was grabbing me by the shoulders and showing me to everyone!”
Finding out after months of waiting was, in a word, relief.
“A lot of people thought I had already been accepted,” Sewell said. They’d say, ‘You’re the Navy guy.’ And I thought it’s going to be awkward if I don’t get in. All these other academy people that have gotten in… all these Navy t-shirts I can’t wear anymore.”
Military service had been Sewell’s plan, especially after his days at Murrah High School. It was during his sophomore year that he participated in the school’s JROTC program.
But Academy Day, held annually at Madison Central to spotlight the Army, Navy and Air Force academies, piqued Sewell’s interest. That led to his attending the Naval Academy’s weeklong Summer Seminar in Annapolis between his junior and senior year.
“You wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day, they take you on patrols, you do physical training and visit the facilities,” an experience Sewell said is the “closest thing you’ll get to boot camp.”
During his high school years, Sewell maintained a 3.9 GPA. He is the captain of the St. Andrew’s football and track teams, Prefect of the school’s student missions team and a part of the student alumni team. At Murrah, Sewell was inducted into the National Honor Society, played football and baseball, ran track and was on the swim team.
While academics play a major role (he will pursue a S.T.E.M. related field of study), Sewell understands the Academy requires a great deal of physical and mental endurance.
“Most people think the Academy is all book smarts, but boxing is a required class,” he explained. Swimming is a required class. It’s a lot of running, a lot of getting yelled at. It’s going to be tough.”
The Academy calls it “pressure with a purpose.”
He recalled an instance during the summer seminar last year where he hadn’t exactly fallen in line.
“This girl, the size of my (younger) sister – she tore into me! She made me do burpees. I remember that vividly.”
“You’ll mess up at times,” he said. “But you bounce back and put it behind you. I learned that from football. I won MVP, but I made mistakes. There were times I’d missed a tackle or drop a pass. You have to throw it behind you because you have the rest of the game to play. It’s a good trait to have.”
Sewell’s induction day, or I Day, is June 27. His father said the plane tickets for the whole family have already been purchased.
“We’re incredibly excited,” John said. “Proud would be the first feeling that comes to mind. I’m not nervous, but apprehensive… when we don’t see him for two solid months and don’t get to know what he is going through.”
Charlie will get about 45 minutes with his family following a swearing-in ceremony. And then, it’s goodbye to John, Kim, his brother Jack and his sister Maggie.
“I’ll be wearing some big Jackie O type sunglasses,” John said. “I watch the (I Day) videos and I’m like, ‘Woo!’”
For those next seven weeks, Charlie will only be allowed three Sunday afternoons in July and August for thirty-minute call windows.
John said they’ve joined a parents’ group on Facebook to connect with others who are going through the same thing.
“At Christmas, we went to a dinner and met other parents,” he explained. “That gave us a big comfort. Their kids are already at the Academy. They have told us, if we hear things are tough, we can communicate that and their son or daughter can seek out Charlie and be his support on the ground.”
Charlie said he’ll miss the little things about his civilian life.
“Like the freedom you have to go see family or call friends. I’ll miss (St. Andrew’s) Episcopal Church and Camp Bratton Green. It’s been a big part of my life.”
How does Charlie know he’ll be successful?
“I take orders well,” he said confidently.
His father burst into laughter.
“From other people,” Charlie retorted. “From other people.”
Sewell is the first student at St. Andrew’s since Price Chadwick (2000) to be accepted to the Naval Academy.