The US Merchant Marine Academy — A Personal Tour

We finally got to see my brother today. It was about thirty-two degrees outside so I was more than happy we decided to drive, at the sake of losing our secured parking spot, to the academy.

I mean, it was just agony getting from the parking lot elevator to the car.

And it messed up my hair. We had all put on our “decent” clothes to go pick up my brother and meet his friends.


It took about ten minutes to get to the Academy from where we were, then it was a lot of texting and “where are you”s after that. We had no idea where to go.


Every Thursday at the Academy, they do this thing called “Cookie Cafe,” where families of the students send in homemade cookies for them to have and hang out. It gives them a little boost and a taste of home.

It was by magic that we happened to park right outside the building where Cookie Cafe was being held. We asked the woman in the car next to us where Cookie Cafe was, and she gave us a look like is this a joke? and jutted her finger at the entrance behind her.


That guy in the picture kept getting in my shot so now he’s on the Internet as punishment for not being able to stay still, I guess. (Nothing against him.)  But there are all the cookies in the trays behind him.

My mom has been communicating with other plebe (first year students) moms online, so she instantly went social butterfly and started chatting it up with the women working the Cookie Cafe.

Everyone said how crazy we were to drive all the way there. Funny, it didn’t feel as taxing as they made it sound. Maybe we’re just ignorant of it.

My brother came in a few minutes later, and I was able to meet some of his friends as we chowed down on snicker doodles, grapes, and peanut butter balls.


We also got to meet this really cool family that has taken my brother in during his breaks when he can’t come all the way home. They’re super nice. That was the mom standing behind him, and she even made a gift of a really nice framed picture of my brother standing in front of the American flag for my mom.

After cookies, he gave us a personal tour of the campus, where we all got bundled up and started with the chapel, practically scrambling in for warmth.


What was cool about this chapel is that the altar at the front can actually be set three ways – Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish – since it’s on this huge turntable that allows it to rotate at the switch of a button.


There are also two separate chapels on the lower level. And, of course, the Roll of Honor Book.


This book is a record of all the officers and seamen who lost their lives on merchant ships in both World Wars. It is displayed in a glass case right in front of the altars, and every day, a page is turned in the book so that every mariner will be remembered.


We then rushed – emphasis on rushed –  through the cold to the next building, where he showed us the computer room he spends a majority of his time at, as he is vice president. He also gets special privileges like a desk he only shares with one other person (the president) and this inflatable red dinosaur wearing a sombrero.


He also gave us a tour of Chrysler’s former home and mansion; as in Walter P. Chrysler of the Chrysler cars.


The whole place reminded me of a castle, with the narrow brick stairways and high antique ceilings.

IMG_0096It was beautiful.

I have to say, though, that by the time my lips felt swollen and numb, and the tops of my feet were starting to burn from the cold, I felt like our tour had been sufficient enough. It was freezing. And not just because I’m from California.

Everyone agreed. It was freezing.

By this time, I was running from destination to destination, even in my little wedges. We loaded the van of my brother’s things and drove back to the hotel, starting to think on lunch.

We parked the van back at the hotel, had a quick break so my brother could change into civies, then bundled up yet again to walk-run to the gas station for pizza.

We were just telling my brother how we haven’t quite figured out New York Speak, when a man overheard us talking about buying a pizza.

“Oh, it’s great pie,” he told us, nodding.

“Wait they sell pie?” My mom said instantly, and I elbowed her.

He means pizza,” I murmured.

Like I said, we’re still figuring it out.

We ate back at the hotel, and then, as if it wasn’t finally too cold to be walking around or too cold period, we went out for ice cream.


Maybe not the healthiest choice all around, but it was a lot of fun.

Rebekah Koontz and siblings

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