by Hunter Scott, National Youth Representative, World War II Veterans Committee

Three weeks ago I started a brand new life, in a whole new world—College. Life at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, where I am currently enrolled, is different than anything I have experienced before. I am living away from my parents and for the first time do not have to tell anyone where I am going or what time I will be back. I am attending college on a NROTC Scholarship, and I am a MIDN 4/c in the NROTC unit at UNC-CH. In four years, I will be living a dream that I first thought of in the sixth grade when I started researching the USS Indianapolis—a dream of becoming an officer in the United States Navy like my heroes, the men of the Indianapolis.

I just finished NROTC “orientation” which was held at Duke University, where I got a small taste of liberty and a large dose of strict rules, regulations, and orders. As the other midshipmen and I lined up against the wall on the first day, we were immediately given a ten-page set of “knowledge” that we were required to learn throughout the week, and ordered to stand at attention. This was only the beginning of a week that would teach us about leadership, discipline, and the military.

Each morning we would rise and shine; well, not so much shine, but rise nonetheless, to parade around Duke’s East campus at 5:30 in the morning for our daily physical training (PT) sessions. After our physical training, forty guys shared 6 showers for the two to three minutes we had to shower, shave, dress, and be standing at attention outside of our hatches. Once our usual morning routine was finished, we would march to breakfast for a quick meal. After breakfast, the upperclassmen would march us out into the fresh air, and start getting on our tails about any breath that was out of place.

As the week continued I learned several key lessons. First, was that if I did what I was told and spoke as little as possible, but spoke intelligently when I did speak, then life was considerably easier. Any time I disagreed with my upperclassmen staff, it was better do as I was told than to create a scene. The sooner I followed instructions, the sooner the yelling moved on to someone else.

Second, I learned that operating under military stress, for instance a prisoner of war (POW) in Germany during WWII, is totally different from any civilian stress that I’ve experienced as a student, like having four or five papers due at once, on top of trying to cram for exams. Military stress, in many times (although it was only simulated throughout the week), could be a life or death situation. I could not help to think of the men of the USS Indianapolis and what they went through while spending four days in the middle of the Pacific with nothing to eat or drink. As awful as their military training might have seemed, i.e. boot camp, OCS, or “Orientation” to the ROTC programs, it is nothing like floating for four days in shark-infested waters while watching your closest shipmates slowly pass away.