Four years ago, Bryan County High School graduate Lindsay Bowen entered the United States Military Academy, reportedly as the first from BCHS to attend West Point.
Last weekend, she and other members of the USMA Class of 2020 attended a graduation ceremony in which President Donald Trump was the keynote speaker. Her official graduation date was May 23, and that’s the day she got her commission as a second lieutenant and her degree as a Russian language major.
And now Bowen is part of the storied Long Gray Line, which links her in history to generals whose names echo down through history: MacArthur and Patton and Bradley and Schwarzkopf, among others.
Like her place in BCHS history, that part hasn’t exactly set in yet.
“Sometimes I would walk around and look at all the statues and think of how amazing an opportunity it was to be there,” Bowen said. “And then I’d wonder how I got there.”
Right now Bowen, whose father Gerald retired from the Army, is on leave, enjoying time with family in North Carolina. In September, she goes to Fort Sill to begin training as a field artillery officer before heading to her first duty station at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, sometime in February.
Bowen, who thought she might want to be a pilot, said she instead chose artillery after a trip to Fort Richardson, Alaska. She spent one year as a cheerleader but got then got into what she called Sandhurst, a military skills competition involving cadets from around the world. And she studied hard.
That first year, Bowen said, was hard.
“It was awful, she said. “But it gets so much better each year.”
In such a historic place, there are traditions around every corner. Bowen’s favorite was Christmas dinner, which is annually held in full dress uniform.
“At the end we all stand up on chairs and sing the 12 days of Christmas, and after it’s over everybody goes outside and smokes cigars together,” Bowen said. “It’s just a really good thing to do together before you leave for break.” For high students who may be looking at attending military academies, Bowen said the key is to apply to all of them and keep one’s options open.
“Try not to get set on one academy,” she said. “I was really looking at the Air Force Academy, but I applied to all five and got to visit all five.”
That and “take as many honors classes as you can in high school.”
Bowen said she’s also a believer in being physically fit. Her experience in gymnastics helped her when the going got tough, and it inevitably did earlier rather than later.
“Being in shape carried me through the times when I struggled at the Academy, especially that first year” she said. “In basic, everyone struggles with something and people in shape won’t be as tired and can handle adversity better.”
Bowen said she also got motivation because she’s a woman, and that in part led her to choose the combat arms branch of field artillery. Female cadets make up roughly 18 percent of the student body at West Point, she said, and “if you were to fail at something then it’s a female who failed, you were not just another cadet who failed at something. So you are always trying to prove yourself.”
Bowen has an eight-year commitment to the Army, and in time she said her place in the West Point Association of Graduates will sink in.
The connections, she said, like the education, will be invaluable, just like her experience at West Point as a member of the Long Gray Line of cadets.
“I wouldn’t trade it for all the world,” Bowen said.