By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Imagine being one year removed from high school and after finishing your first year of college, have 84 credit hours — more than three-quarters of the way toward a bachelor’s degree.
Now imagine giving all of that up and starting all over again.
Some may call that a bit crazy, but not Major Ricke. He gladly is giving up his completed college hours to start college again at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. It’s all about the desire to be a Navy man and to fulfill a dream that has been burning inside of him for several years.
“I always wanted to do this,” Ricke said. “School has always been a big thing for me and I always wanted to go to the best school. My grandpa was in the Navy and we have his medals on our wall.
“He always talked to me about his travels. This is what I want.”
Ricke leaves for the Naval Academy June 26 and Induction Day is slated for the next day. He knows from that point on, his life will never be the same.
“I will only get to make three phone calls all summer,” he said. “I know I will be at the bottom of the barrel.”
Ricke, a 2012 honor graduate at New Albany High School, and his freshmen classmates will be known as plebes. And when one of the plebes is asked something by an upperclassman, they better have the answer or be prepared for some physical activity. He has been studying the “Ref Book,” which has answers to some of the questions he may be asked.
The summer program, which lasts for seven weeks for the incoming freshmen, is both physically and mentally demanding. They will be introduced to military routine and their day will begin at dawn. According to the Naval Academy’s website, “the frantic, exhausting pace of Plebe Summer leads you somewhere. It gets you ready for your responsibilities when the brigade returns from summer training and the academic year begins.”
Ricke said he is ready for the challenge.
“I have played sports all my life. I’m not worried about the physical aspect,” he said.
After four years, Ricke and the rest of the plebes will leave with a top-notch education and be commissioned as officers in the Navy, where they will have to fulfill a five-year commitment.
His father, Mike Ricke, said last October his son said he was going into the Navy — either after graduating from South Carolina or by attending the Naval Academy.
“He was set on a Naval career,” Ricke’s father said. “It was never about the [credit] hours. This was what he wanted to do. Both of his grandfathers were World War II veterans.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has put in all the time and effort. No one can do this for you.”
Ricke should be entering his second year at Annapolis. But after suffering a shoulder injury while playing football at New Albany High School his senior year that required surgery, he was unable to complete the fitness test. When he was healthy enough to finish the exam, enrollment was already complete for the 2012 freshman class.
But he didn’t give up on his dream. He enrolled into the University of South Carolina’s rigorous engineering program and went through the Naval Academy process all over again. This time, there were no injuries or roadblocks stopping him.
He was sponsored by both Sen. Dan Coats and Rep. Todd Young, and his local adviser is retired Navy Capt. Tim Naville, a New Albany attorney who is a grad of the academy.
While none of his credits transferred, Ricke said the academic experience at South Carolina prepared him for what he will face in the engineering program at the academy. He also said he got to enjoy a normal freshman year of college, unlike most midshipmen who come right out of high school.
“I loved South Carolina. It was a great experience,” he said. “I know what college is like. I know how to study. I think that experience puts me a little ahead of the others coming in.”
He said he has received tremendous support from his family. He said the entire family will take one more vacation together this month before he leaves for Annapolis. He said his first time off will be at Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
While his time as a civilian is dwindling, he said he is making the most of his brief summer break. He has been working out daily, reading up on the Navy and “just relaxing.”
“I am just trying to live a normal life for the next few weeks,” he said.