A welcoming home means a lot to left-behind rooks

Norwich University is a private military college, which means that like at other private military colleges, the freshmen here have a different first year than other college freshmen and sometimes need to escape. As someone who has gone through Rookdom, I can say that it is rewarding – but honestly, about as much fun as standing in the ice and snow while some random person you barely know screams at you. In fact, that exact situation happens a lot here at Norwich University.

It isn’t hard to see why, that when they have the chance, rooks do their best to get off campus. Though they can’t come and go as they please, there are several specific time periods where rooks are encouraged, and almost always desire to leave. I am referring to parent’s weekend, mid-semester break, thanksgiving break and, of course, the beloved winter break. However, rooks often find themselves trapped on campus as these dates approach, which is why you will often hear the school president talk about how no rooks are left behind, since very few rooks want to be on campus during breaks.
In fact, when asked to describe what he thought being trapped on campus during a break would be like, Rook Anthony Larkin simply responded with one word: “Hell.” Rook Justin Paddock put it a little more descriptively: “I would hate to be stuck on campus. You would be trapped in your dorm with nothing to do. It’s a really good thing I was able to go to my rook brother’s house for mid semester break and meet his family.”
Plainly stated in the words of rook Nicholas Heille, “no recruit should ever be trapped here alone.”
To everyone who has opened their homes, I extend a thank you: You deserve recognition because what you have done is an inspiring example of kindness and generosity. You have brought, at certain times, strangers into your home, out of the kindness of your heart. This might seem strange to those outside of our little world here at Norwich. However, according to Cadet Kevin Focht, there are no strangers in Rookdom. Though Focht brought a foreign exchange student he had known for little over a month into his home, “he wasn’t a stranger. You go through those first few weeks and you know you immediately have that bond.”
For those who don’t know, we have a tradition here at Norwich that rooks, especially, should not have to spend any breaks sitting on campus alone hating their lives. When fellow rooks and friends open their homes to these individuals, it can be intimidating. As Cadet Devan Killilea notes, “I was nervous because I didn’t know how they could react to my home and family as well as vice versa, but it was my rook brother, so I wasn’t too scared because he wasn’t a stranger to me.”
Again and again rooks find a home to stay at, not just for a day or two but often for weeks or months. It is a perfect example of the high quality of human beings that can be found here that this is possible. This is not a rare phenomenon: It happens time after time because no one wants to be alone in the cold, mountainous reaches of Vermont. Everyone wants to help others feel the warmth of a family, no matter where they are from. Alumnus David Rhoden brought a cadet named Chim to his home in 2009 and several times after that. He did not know Chim that well, but only knew his fellow recruit was trapped at NU. Chim went on to ask Rhoden to be his best man.
Several people interviewed said that they would be willing to do it again. As Cadet Focht said, “I would and I have, I would not mind bringing any of my friends or rook brothers home with me if they needed a place to stay.” Cadet Killilea echoed the view. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have taken others in as well over my past three years here and many have done the same for me.”
So I formally would like to thank every single person who has ever taken part in this, who has ever brought strangers into their lives and their very homes, for the kindness they are showing.
Cadet William Kemp is a platoon sergeant in headquarters company and a sergeant first class in PAO.

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