Recent Trip to West Point

If you follow me on Instagram you likely saw that Tom, Jack and I took a trip to West Point on Easter weekend.  For those of you who are new readers, I’m a 2009 West Point grad and I served 5 years on Active Duty in the Army before transitioning to the Individual Ready Reserve.  Our trip up to West Point was special for a few reasons.  First, I got to visit my late husband Dimitri, who was buried there after losing his life in Afghanistan in 2011.  Secondly, Tom and I ran the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon in which Dimitri was honored at the 1 mile marker.  Thirdly, this was both Tom and Jack’s first visit to my Alma Mater!  It was fun to show them around and tell stories from my time there.  Finally, it was Jack’s first Easter and we got to attend church at the beautiful Cadet Chapel.

The first thing I always do when I get to West Point is visit Dimitri in the cemetery.  It’s always an emotional event but it helps me experiences the sadness at the beginning of the trip so I can spend the rest of my visit reflecting on the happy memories he and I have from our time as cadets.  This excerpt below is from my post on Instagram that I posted after visiting him.  I’d normally write something new but I feel like I summed up all of my emotions pretty well in this post, so I thought I’d share it with you here too:

Today I got to introduce Jack to the brave man I loved for 5 years and was married to for 6 short months before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.  I don’t know what I’ll tell Jack about Dimitri as he gets older because he will never completely understand this part of my past, but I do know that Jack would have loved Dimitri and Dimitri would have thought Jack was hilarious and so cute.  This little boy of mine was not the baby I originally dreamed of having but I sure do love him with my whole heart and I’m thankful every day that I get to be his momma.  I hope that with time I learn to walk this tightrope of life with balance and grace as I remember my past, embrace my present and look forward to the happy days of my future with this little family I’ve created.  I’m so thankful I got to love Dimitri and I’m so thankful that I get to love a man now who is ok with supporting me and taking this picture even if it was a little uncomfortable for him (although he’d never admit it if it was).  I know my past and I are intimidating, fragile, and difficult sometimes, but God sure did know exactly who I needed when he put Tom in my life.”

The next day Tom and I woke up bright and early for the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon.  It was freeeeeezing and we were ill-prepared for the weather.  We sucked it up though and ran it anyway!  This was my first post-baby race, and at not quite 5 months postpartum it definitely kicked my butt.  West Point is extremely hilly and this was the most difficult half marathon I’ve ever run, and I’ve probably run at least 30 of them.  

Before the half marathon.

The West Point jump team parachuted into the football stadium before the race.

My hope was to finish in under 2 hours, but because of the hills I couldn’t quite pull it off.  We finished in 2:03.  23 minutes slower than my PR but all things considered I was happy with my performance.

Me with my finisher’s medal and the sign of Dimitri that was at the 1 mile marker.

The write-up about Dimitri that was posted at the end of the race.

Some friends kindly babysat Jack while Tom and I ran the race.  It was Jack’s first time with a babysitter (that wasn’t my mom or dad) and he did great!

With Jack after the race.

After we got cleaned up I took Tom (and Jack) on a walking tour of West Point.  If you’ve never visited before and you happen to find yourself in New York I highly recommend visiting.  It’s a beautiful campus located right on the Hudson River and it’s fully of so much history.  I didn’t always appreciate the beauty of the campus while I was a cadet because I was always so stressed, exhausted, sleepy and busy…but I sure do miss this place now that I’m 7 years removed.  As they say, “West Point is a great place to be from, but not a great place to be.”  

Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson River.

View from the new library.

The next day was Easter so we got dressed up in our Easter best and went to the Cadet Chapel.  We also gave Jack his Easter basket and he seemed pretty interested in manhandling the basket but couldn’t have cared less about the contents.  Typical baby, I supposed!

Isn’t Jack’s little tie so funny?

View from outside the Cadet Chapel.

We had such a great and meaningful trip to West Point and I’m so thankful that I was able to share this special place with my little family.  I hope you all had a happy Easter!

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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Leave a comment

  1. April 6, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    What a special trip! We lived there from 1994-98, hubs was the E4 TAC and then the COMs XO. I was a tour guide and we loved it there. I always say our children did their four years at WP early! Even though our son got in, he chose Duke. Anyway, I digress…you are doing a great job with your new family as you find your new normal.

  2. April 7, 2016 / 11:53 am

    I was wondering when there would be a post about this special meeting. Very touching and I think you do a beautiful job bridging your two lives together forward, it's quite an inspiration. And your family looks just beautiful for Easter – congratulations on the half marathon!

  3. April 7, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    Beautiful post! <3

  4. April 11, 2016 / 11:40 am

    Thank you so much! It certainly was a special visit and I'm glad I was able to introduce Jack to Dimitri at such a young age. I don't think there is any point in hiding my past, and I prefer to do what feels right even if it's difficult. I appreciate your kind words and thank you for reading!

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