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March 17. 2014 6:35PM

Concord graduate is West Point ambassador during spring break

CONCORD — Parker Callaghan is a 20-year-old college kid back home in Concord on his spring break.

Unlike most students in his situation, though, the junior at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is using part of his time off visiting schools to talk to the next generation of potential cadets.

"I'm personally really proud of being from New Hampshire and having other cadets from New Hampshire at West Point," he said. "If I can have a hand in attracting more cadets from New Hampshire to West Point, that would be great."

Callaghan, a 2011 Concord High School graduate, said the consultations with high school students vary. He will sometimes give speeches to entire classes or will engage students in smaller groups, including one-on-one encounters, which he said he prefers.

"I give them as much information as I can because you can only read so much about it," he said.

Callaghan's older brother, Jackson, is another cadet who is graduating in May and will be heading to Fort Carson, Colo., he said. While he and his brother chose to attend West Point, they do not come from a military family, he said.

And a question he said he still wrestles with is often viewed as the easiest: "Why West Point?"

"That's the most perplexing question to me," he said. "To this day, I don't have a hard and fast answer to that question.

"I just know that I want to," he said.

He said his favorite part of attending the service academy is the friends he's made and the chance to spend three of his college years with his brother.

"Definitely the people I'm around. That's what makes it or breaks it," he said.

That said, riding in Army helicopters and seeing nearly every vehicle in the Army fleet is pretty cool too, he said.

But then there's the famed West Point gas chamber, where cadets are subjected to tear gas. He's been through it several times, he said, but without a gas mask can still only make it about 45 seconds to a minute.

"I haven't gotten to the point where it doesn't get to me," he said.

Callaghan, a civil engineering major, said he still hasn't decided whether he will serve only the minimum of five years required after graduation or will make the Army his career.

"It's so far down the line that I don't think about it right now," he said. "I have no idea right now."

Callaghan said he won't spend his entire spring break at local high schools, though. The guy needs some down time like any other college student.

"Oh absolutely," he said when asked if he was going to have a little R and R during his time off from school.

So he said he was heading to Canada with his girlfriend for a few days of skiing before going back to the academy next week.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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