Tonawanda News

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November 25, 2012

Midshipman Stephen Rodriguez comes home for the holidays and pitches Navy experience

Stephen Rodriguez is home for the holidays and pitches Navy experience

Tonawanda News — It was almost 18 months ago when Stephen Rodriguez packed up and headed for Annapolis, Md., to enter the U.S. Naval Academy.

Now, after surviving Plebe (freshman) summer and becoming a Youngster (sophomore), Rodriguez has returned home with tales of the Navy and a mission to recruit some more of the Falls’ finest to the military.

“(Freshman year) is definitely a challenge,” Rodriguez said with a big grin. “But it’s all worth it. It’s designed to develop you morally, mentally and physically into the best leader you can be.”

That said, Rodriguez admitted when his summer training in 2011 ended, he couldn’t wait to see his parents for the first time after his swearing-in — and to eat “a big, juicy cheeseburger.”

“You don’t get (cheeseburgers) during Plebe summer,” he said. “(Those who have been through it) always say Plebe summer is never what you expect it to be and it’s different for every person and how you react to it.”

No longer consigned to wearing the white scrub uniform of a first-year military academy student, Rodriguez was sporting what the Navy calls dress blues as he sat in the office at his Falls alma mater the day before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t his first trip back to his former high school but he was preparing to meet with former classmates and new students to give them a look into what life at the Naval Academy is like.

Like everything else in the military, Rodriguez’s visit has its own code name. It’s call Opinfo.

“Basically I go to high schools and do presentations on the academy,” he said. “It’s nice to be back (at Niagara Catholic). It’s not my first time back, but Niagara Catholic helped me get in the academy and (the education I got here) helps me at the academy.”

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