Gee: My school, Howe Military Academy, is being shut down
There are many reasons for why someone is successful, and truthfully, success is different for everybody. I used to think success was financial earnings, but now it’s just about being able to wake up and make sense of the world we live in and simplify it for my kids.
No matter what your definition of success is, how you get there holds true for all of us — never quit.
There are two reason why I never quit — my dad, and Howe Military School. They are why when I get knocked down, I get back up. My dad is no longer here. I just found out the school where I spent seven years of my life, will no longer exist after this school year.
Howe Military Academy in Indiana has been around 135 years, and I was able to be part of that. I could write a book on my experiences at this school (actually, I am doing that), but I’ll just share some key things that have shaped me forever from my time there.
Gee Scott with his father at Howe Military Academy. (Courtesy)
One night during my 7th grade year, a few of us were sitting around discussing how happy we were, or weren’t. We were complaining about not having free time and not being able to do what other kids outside of a military school got to do. So we decided that we were going to run away and show everyone we meant business. But first, we were headed to McDonald’s in Sturgis, Michigan.
So off we went. I believe it was about five or six of us — I can’t really remember. But I do remember that we were walking along the main road that headed out of town.
About 20 minutes into the trip, a mini-van pulled over in front of us. It’s Major Shelton — oh boy, trouble. He was our tactical officer (the adult that’s in charge of our barracks). He says, “OK guys, just get in the van.”
That’s exactly what we did: We got in the van.
As we were riding back to campus, all I could think of was how I was likely about to get kicked out of school; how my parents were going to be so mad at me. All Major Shelton said on the ride back was that he wanted us to head directly to his office as soon as we got back.
We got out of the mini-van, and went right to his office. He came in and lit up a cigarette. I was ready for him to start yelling at us.
Instead, the first thing he says, “I want to understand how you feel and what made you do this.” That question led to about three to four hours of talking, crying, and letting out everything that was going on inside of our young minds.
When it was done, he told us that he loved us. He said that he believed one day, later in life, when times got hard, that we would remember this moment and know that things will be okay.
As a leader, it’s not about how much you know, but about how much you cared. That night we found out that Major Shelton cared.
You probably look back at school and can remember some of your friends. Now imagine living with those friends everyday. There’s a bond that’s pretty hard to explain. Over the years I had so many friends, but the one I will talk about now is Mr. Shigley. He was my basketball coach, my accounting teacher, but most importantly, my friend.
One particular day, I was in his classroom before heading over to practice. I reached out and shook his hand and said, “Hey Shig-Fro (I called him that and many other names), are you afraid of me?”
He said no. Then I said, “Why you shaking?”
Okay, I had to tell that part, because it was something he would do and say all the time, and it was the corniest thing ever.
I could tell he wasn’t in his normal good mood. He said, “Scott, guess what today might be? This might be the last practice that we ever have together. If we lose the next game, we are done and it’s over. I just want you to know that I hope we remain close after basketball and after you leave here.”
That conversation made it more about coach and teacher to me. It was that moment that I started thinking of all the moments that he had been there for me. I always wanted to make him proud then, and even after I graduated.
Mr. Shigley passed away on Jan. 2, 2015 at the age of 81. But our friendship lives on forever.
Gee Scott with his basketball coach Mr. Shigley at Howe Military Academy. (Courtesy of Gee Scott)
You know what they say: You can’t pick who your family is. Well, that’s true, and it was true at Howe Military.
We were kids from all over, living together in barracks, learning how to work together; it was amazing. I look back on some pretty awesome experiences. Like when the Marsett family allowed me to come over, and Mrs. Marsett would make those baked beans. Family right there.
Or the time when Ryan Anderson had Snoop Dogg’s first album sent to him with a bunch of his mom’s cookies. By the way, that was one of the greatest weekends of my life. All we did that entire weekend was sit in his room and listen to that tape (yes, it was on cassette tape).
Have you ever said, “Well that’s not my problem” to a situation? Yeah, so have I. But at Howe Military School, if there was a problem, it was a problem for everyone.
Free time was the best. We didn’t get that much of it. When you got it, you enjoyed it. Out of a seven day week, we would get a couple hours on Friday night, about 4-5 hours on a Saturday, and 4-5 on Sunday. Now, all of that depends on you, your barracks, and the school. If you’re good, then you’ll have free time. If the school is good, you’ll have free time. Well, this particular time, something happened with the barracks.
I’ll leave names out of this story because, well… I’ll get to that.
A practical joke was played on someone in our barracks. To keep it simple (so that my editor doesn’t scrap this story), someone did something to the pillow case of one of the kids in the barracks. So when that person woke up that morning, let’s just say you could tell that he slept all night with a pillow case that was no good. Just use your imagination with the pillow case.
So we are outside of our rooms for reveille roll-call (that’s when the bugle plays and we all wake up). All names are being called. When it came to the name of the person with the damaged pillow case, he said, “Sir, there seems to be a problem. I didn’t have a good night sleep because of my pillow.”
Did I mention that all of this is happening right in front of me? I’m standing at attention, holding in my laugh, all while knowing what happened.
Captain Barton (our tactical officer) said, “If we don’t find out who did this, there will be no free time this weekend.”
Well, guess what, there was no free time, because even though it would have been easy to tell on the person that did it, it was just one of those situations that proved that family was more important than free time. Yes, I can tell you now who it was, but that would betray family.
Oh, and by the way, there was nothing criminal that happened to that pillow case.
Howe Military Academy
I’m who I am today for two reasons — my father and Howe Military Academy. At the end of this school year, both will be gone. I’m sad about this.
I have so many memories and so many lessons to share because of that place. So much that I have dreams to this day that are centered around that place. I’m a better person because of that school and for that I’m grateful. So, one last time, I will say: Sir, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Scott reporting out.
Gee Scott at Howe Military Academy. (Courtesy of Gee Scott)