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From I-day to "S-day"

Jul 07, 2024

I had a mother of a midshipman reach out to me a couple weeks back asking if she could share her story here on Academy Insider.

The reality of the situation is that some people will choose to leave the Naval Academy for one reason or another.  And the other reality is that some people, unfortunately and ill-willed, will be proactively rude & mean about the circumstance, which may cause people to hide what they are going through and not reach out for support.

But not here.  Academy Insider has always been designed to support families of midshipmen.  And I am so grateful that Alexandra was willing to share her story.

If you are struggling in any capacity - please reach out to us and we will get you connected to someone who can empathize & provide advice with your situation.


"From I-day to S-Day"

Somewhere between the movie Midway, where my son admittedly cried, and a trip to Jekyll Island Ga where he met a former USNA graduate from the class of 50 something, my son decided to pursue the United States Naval Academy.  This meeting was pivotal and he took my son under his wing and encouraged him, sent a letter, and even communicated with him through text into his plebe year.  The support of the USNA family at large was immediate and welcomed. 

After a trip to visit USNA in December when tours had just begun after Covid regulations were lifted, his experience during Summer Seminar, and making friends in Annapolis that summer,  his strong desire to pursue the appointment became sealed.  As parents we learned and assisted as much as possible while making sure it was his work.  

As a mom, I have often left him to pursue his own choices and passions.  And I believed 100% this was God’s plan for him, as it wasn’t initiated by parents but came totally out of his own thinking and desires. God opens doors… and I remembered this in that moment.

What do parents do? PRAY and assist! My prayer was for God to open doors and close them if it wasn't his plan. Through all the paperwork, the interviews, the medical exams that were never close to home - all hours spent in dedication to pursue his plans, I just prayed God would lead the way.

Our congressman, now Senator, personally called him to say he was receiving an appointment.  There was the answer.  We celebrated and began to prepare.  

Then there was the mountain of paperwork due before I-Day.  He started to have doubts.

I was constantly reminded to keep encouraging him, that many young men and women have doubts as they know what is awaiting them during plebe summer.  He will be ok.  I planned for everything I could, I gleaned from the facebook groups, from our NC Chapter of parents…It was all reassuring and so very helpful to prepare.   

Then I-Day arrived.  While he was full of unsettling emotions as we all were, he knew what he was undertaking.  After a final smile at the Oath of Office, he was gone.  

I felt a mix of pride, peace with his decision, and yet a sadness at the sudden loss and lack of him being there.  

Being part of the USNA community, mom groups, etc will forever be part of my heart. And I now have tremendous friendships through our experiences together.  

However their experiences are continuing and ours has ended.  

From I Day to “S”-Day.  Separation is a word most parents never have to deal with and even fewer understand.  It comes crashing into your world.  Your hopes and dreams for your midshipman, and their hopes and dreams - gone.  What they seemingly wanted and pursued so strongly…turned 180 degrees in the form of a desired separation from the Naval Academy.  

Something changed around Thanksgiving.  After a positive early fall and great grades at mid-term, a visit in October and overall positive spirit from my mid, I had a confidence that he was going to make it.  He talked about nuclear SWO or aviation as a desired service selection, and he talked about how once he started something he would finish.

Then came November.  He let us know he wanted to separate at Christmas.  He wasn’t finding his people, didn’t feel like he had close friends, and I felt hopeless.  I did all I was reminded to do - just kept encouraging.

Despite our efforts of encouragement and advice, he had decided to separate.  I prayed, I cried, I was selfishly mourning the loss of my own USNA community.  I went through multiple emotional stages - disbelief, anger, asking why, and mourning the loss of our new found close knit USNA family.

On Jan. 29th I pulled in behind Bancroft Hall and he loaded up the 4runner.  As choked up and tearful as I-Day, S-Day would be the same. I still was in shock and disbelief.  I had to dig deep and figure out how to support him, without judgment.  

My emotions needed to be in check.  I knew I needed to provide support - needed to suppress my own feelings to prioritize and support him.  

This was the hardest moment in my life as a mother.  Harder even than when both my parents passed away when my son was in middle school. 

One evening that gut wrenching weekend, I drove around by the seawall on the Severn and there was a mid slumped against the wall.  In the dark, head down. I could tell he was in distress.  I drove back around and rolled down my window.  I asked him if there was anything I could do, anything I could get him. 

He told me he would be ok, he said that he was depressed about homework.  I reassured him I would continue to pray for him, and he thanked me gently.  

This was a reality check for me.  In that moment I realized there were other mids struggling in big ways, not just my midshipman.  Not just in my world.  In that moment, I decided it would be my mission to continue to support and lift up these midshipmen in prayer and whatever way God would see fit for me.  While one phase of my Naval Academy experience was ending, I felt another beginning.  

For a majority of the elite group of proud mid moms and dads, the “S” word is often only seen or heard on the facebook pages and it’s about someone else’s child.  “Maybe they just couldn’t cut it," “It’s not for everyone,” and “They will find their path” are just some thoughts expressed by the ones whose mids are still there and pushing through.  

But there were few that understood. That really understood.  Few that had walked in our shoes or had children on the verge of separation.  We reached out and supported one another.  And it was a saving grace for me.  And it's how I want to continue to give back to the USNA parent community.

 During my grieving, a verse from a Casting Crown song kept playing in my mind, but it was a hard verse to hear…

"My world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.” 

My son won’t be at commissioning in 2027.  I’ve had to let go of that dream of pinning on his Ensign shoulder boards and seeing the Blue Angels flyover.  But we will forever be part of this wonderful USNA family.  And I have been able to embrace a new dream of supporting those families and midshipmen going through a really tough time. 

I still pray for the mid I met that night in January.  I still pray for all the midshipman struggling, and for the families who will go through “S”-Day as well.  Just know that I will forever support you, lend an empathetic ear, and be there for you. 

The “S” word hits hard.  It is not easily processed nor understood.  

I pray for joy to come in the morning, for your ability to glean positives from the experiences, and for peace in your new journey.  It’s not easy, and it hurts…..Reach out.

Fair winds and following seas.


Alexandra Shadroui

Mid mom to JP  ‘27/ separation 2024


The resources mentioned in this episode are: