'Where do I sign?' New London native graduating from CGA
New London — Patrick Hanrahan remembers the day: Super Bowl Sunday 2012.
Chris Parsons, head coach of the Coast Guard Academy's men's soccer team, called, asking if Hanrahan wanted to go to military prep school and then, a year later, enroll in the academy.
"Without hesitation, I said, 'Coach, where do I sign?'" Hanrahan recalled in a recent interview on the academy's campus, where he's spent the last four years training to become a Coast Guard officer.
A New London native, Hanrahan, 23, said he had decided in middle school that he wanted to attend the academy. He applied to other colleges, but vowed not to visit any other schools until he heard back from the academy. He was wait listed for a week before receiving the call from Parsons.
Hanrahan said he never wanted the typical college experience. And at the academy, his experiences have been vastly different than those of his friends outside of the Coast Guard. Take, as just one example, sailing through the Caribbean on the Coast Guard barque Eagle, the academy's training vessel.
Going to school in his hometown also had its perks: His parents came to all his soccer games. He was able to get home-cooked meals on weekends. There was even a running joke during his first year that if anyone wanted a free meal, "go down to Mr. G's with Pat because he's going to run into somebody he knows and they're going to pick up the tab for him."
But there have also been low points over the past four years.
"The lows are definitely those hard days during Swab Summer, when you're like three weeks in, and you're sleep deprived, and you've got a shaved head, and they've pretty much brainwashed you into doing whatever they want you to do," Hanrahan said.
"Then you have lows where it's like 3 a.m., and you've been writing this paper for eight hours," he continued.
In those times, he tried to conjure the image of himself walking across the stage, receiving his commission, with his parents looking on. Hanrahan will be the first New London native and graduate of New London High School to graduate from the academy since 1989.
"The kid with the mop head who graduated (high school) in 2012 to who I am now, it's crazy to think how much this place develops you," he said.
He's not sure where his career in the Coast Guard will take him, but he does have plans to eventually return to New London and give back to the community that taught him so much.
Not enough New Londoners come back after experiencing success, Hanrahan said, noting that he and his high school friends have "this big plan that we're going to come back and give back to the city in every way we can."
As for the near future, Hanrahan is headed to Portsmouth, Va., to serve as deck watch officer on the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, which performs drug and migrant interdiction, among other missions, in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
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