Academy moms find comfort in experience


May 28, 2002|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT CAN be difficult for any mother to watch her child leave for college. But for the mother of a child going off to a military academy, there are additional concerns: the rigors her child will go through at the academy and the commitment to serve in the military upon graduation.

That is why Rosalie Bowen of Long Reach formed the Maryland West Point Moms Club. The group was established 14 years ago with four friends going out to dinner; it has grown to a group of about 37 women - and counting.

"My son Triiip [a nickname for Calvert] graduated West Point in 1987," Bowen said at a meeting last week. "A friend with a 1988 graduate had two friends whose sons were about to enter the academy. They were concerned. I said, `Why don't we take them out to dinner and tell them what they might expect?'"

The club has grown to include women with children in all branches of the military.

"This group is a place where you can share your fears and hopes about the military," said Cindy Coffman of Hickory Ridge. Her son Ben will graduate from West Point next year. Her husband, Miles, is chairman of the Columbia Council.

The monthly meetings are helpful for mothers of new cadets as well as mothers of soldiers well into their careers.

"The conversation can be as simple as logistics, such as when to get football tickets and when to make hotel reservations for graduation - things the kids won't think about," said Nancy Mitroka of Ellicott City, who has three children who graduated from West Point and one attending. "But it also gets much deeper than that."

"This is a place where people really hear what you are saying and really understand," said Long Reach resident Kathy Van Echo, whose son Matthew is a Marine Corps second lieutenant stationed in the Philippines. "Other people don't understand why I worry. You don't hear much about the Philippines in the news, but he could face some dangerous situations. I feel like this is a place where I can talk openly and it's OK to worry. My son always says, `Mom, don't worry.'"

Van Echo has two other children in the military. Her son David is an Army physician stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and her daughter Kyra is a student at the Coast Guard Academy.

Kathleen Jones of Owen Brown says she worries about her son, Army Capt. Garrett Jones, stationed in Kuwait. She showed pictures he sent of camels and sandstorms.

"They say it's harder for us back here," she said. "It's just day-to-day stuff for them."

Coffman said she knows she will have support when her son graduates.

"When he's stationed at his first post, [other club members] will know someone familiar with it who can give us tips," Coffman said. "When he's moving around, they can hook us up with people who are familiar with the areas."

The club is also a place where mothers can boast about their children's promotions and latest tours of duty.

A network of West Point parents' clubs is coordinated by the U.S. Military Academy - the official name for West Point. The Maryland West Point Mom's Club is a separate, informal organization.

Other east Columbia members are Carol Tortella, Virginia Bell, Margaret Edge, Mary Erickson, Kathy Frizelle, Gatsby Green, Cheryl Miller and Winnie Coggins.

Information about the group: send e-mail to Rosalie Bowen at

Columbia Spirit

The Columbia Association awarded six $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors through its Spirit of Columbia Scholarship Program. The students were recognized at a reception last week at Columbia Association offices on Wincopin Circle.

Laura Anne Bumiller, an Oakland Mills High School senior, was vice president of the National Honor Society. She worked with the Appalachian Service Project, a volunteer organization that helps repair homes for the needy, and Beyond the Boundaries, an organization that addresses inner-city problems in Baltimore. She volunteered at soup kitchens and a nursing home, organized school-supply and toy drives and received the Gold Award, the highest in the Girl Scouts.

Samantha Elaine McCoy, a Long Reach High School senior, was president of the Black Student Achievement Program. She was a peer mediator trainer and designed and helped make a "peace quilt." Samantha works with the youth division of the Howard County branch of the NAACP and was a psychology intern at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

Other winners were Suneel Bhat and Casey Alexandra Hedden of River Hill and Amanda Henry and Benjamin E. Schwartz of Wilde Lake.

Talented musicians

Congratulations to the Hammond High School music department for an outstanding performance at the Festival of Music competition in Williamsburg, Va., last month.

The Symphonic Band was grand champion, the highest award. The music department won the Esprit de Corps Trophy, an award based on the group's conduct.

The concert band took first place; the orchestra, jazz ensemble and marching band finished second. The concert choir, the madrigals and the color guard finished third. The concert band sight-reading group placed fourth.

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