BY SOPHIA BURAGLIO
Following in the footsteps of his immediate and extended family, including both parents, an older brother, two uncles, a grandfather and two great-grandfathers, who combined have served in Europe, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, CHS senior Nathan Suess is planning for a future serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The senior was recently accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he will receive a four-year education and graduate as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. This marks a departure from his parents’ and brother’s paths of service in the Navy.
“Military academies have been my dream for a very long time, probably since elementary school, because my dad always told me cool stories about his escapades and adventures at the Naval Academy,” Nathan says.
In terms of a general aspiration to join the Armed Forces, Nathan describes the economic benefits of attending a military academy as well: Tuition is paid for by the government, and employment is guaranteed after graduation. He notes, however, that the free education provided at military academies comes with a commitment to active duty service and the possibility of giving his life for his country.
Nathan Suess feels that his family and their military history played a significant role in helping him find his path. His parents, Matt and Dana Suess, are a retired Naval commander and a lieutenant in the Navy Nurse Corps reserves, respectively.
“My family goes back in the military at least four generations,” Nathan says. “So it’s kind of tradition, which puts pressure on me to fulfill that tradition.”
Nathan’s older brother, Connor, currently a Midshipman 4th Class at the United States Naval Academy, asserts that although growing up in a military family helped him appreciate his family’s chosen paths, he never felt obligated to follow them.
“I have grown up admiring the integrity, honor and self-discipline displayed by these role models of mine,” Connor says. “I never felt pressured in any way from my family—they were entirely supportive of whatever decision I made, and I applied to and seriously considered a number of civilian colleges.”
Like Connor and Nathan, Matt Suess highly prizes the values instilled by his military experiences. He was assigned during his service to units in Italy, San Diego, Virginia, Monterey and Guam. During this time, he was deployed to Kenya, South Korea and Bahrain, and says he gained a broader world view and stronger leadership skills as a result of his service.
“America doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas—other countries do some things differently than us, and sometimes their ways are better,” he says. “Conversely, I’ve also seen how bad a mismanaged country can be, and it gives me a renewed appreciation of how great America is and how much we owe to those who came before us.”
Dana Suess also comments on the growth and learning experiences that came with her military service, specifically a strengthened team mentality and development of a wide variety of nursing skills.
“The unofficial Navy motto is ‘See one, do one, teach one,’ meaning you watch it once, then you are expected to perform the skill and even teach it,” she says. “Serving in the military helps a person realize that her potential stretches beyond the limits that she presets for herself.”
By the time Nathan was in his junior year and researching schools, he had narrowed down his choices to USAFA and USNA, and eventually settled on Air Force as his first choice. Several factors influenced Nathan’s decision to aim for the Air Force instead of Navy. The opportunity to study civil engineering, offered at USAFA but not USNA, was one of them.
Location of each academy was another.
“I like mountains,” he says, laughing. “Colorado has mountains. Maryland does not.”
He cites the Air Force’s focus on keeping families of their officers together as another major contributing factor.
“Some branches may not even try to keep the families of officers together,” Nathan says. “Others may go just slightly out of their way. Air Force is exceptional in that regard.”
Connor made the decision to attend a military academy not only for the environment of discipline and integrity they foster, but for the opportunity to serve and give back to his country.
“We train every day, morally, mentally and physically to ultimately fulfill the oath we took,” he says, “to defend the values, principles and people of our great nation.”
Dana is well aware of the weight carried by the naval oath of office: “When I was sworn in as an officer, and with each rank promotion, I raised my right hand and struggled through the emotion toward our great nation as I recited the section ‘I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….’”
Nathan Suess acknowledges that he is apprehensive about the rigorous environment fostered by military academies, the level of discipline required of cadets and the possibility of having to drop out or leave the academy. Despite this, he is confident that the choice he made is the right one.
“I think a lot about decisions before making them,” he says. “I’m pretty sure that this is the best path for me.”