By Emily Knitter
Sitting in a corner of a cafe in a deep, leather armchair, the ivy-coated, red brick walls of Devereux Hall outside are framed by the windows next to me. Although the day is cloudy and dull, the architecture inside and out is undeniably elegant. Patrick McCormack waves hello as he enters, dressed in a crisp U.S. Army uniform, sporting a short, cropped haircut and carrying a heavy backpack. He sinks down into the chair opposite me, setting his bag on the ground nearby.
We met in the late morning at a time when most St. Bonaventure University students are in class, so La Verna Cafe is oddly quiet. I invited McCormack to talk not only because he is actively involved in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) on campus, but because just a few short years ago he did not even know what ROTC was. Originally enrolling at Bona’s to play rugby, the Hartford, Conn., native is in a unique position to understand the perspectives of both military and non-military affiliated students. His story is one of change and growth that he admits surprises even himself sometimes.
EK: Paint the picture. What were you like when you first came to Bona’s?
PM: My first two years at Bona’s my hair was down to my shoulders and I had a full beard. I chose [to be a business major...] because I didn't know what else to do. I was just kind of drifting through school. I was playing rugby and going to classes, but I had a lot of free time.
EK: When did things start to change?
PM: There was a day the rugby team had a joint workout with the ROTC program. I finally saw what they were about. Once the wheel started turning I knew it was something I was really interested in.
EK: Now you’re a senior and have been active in the program for a few years. What have you learned that you would not have if you were a “traditional” student?
PM: ROTC has taught me a ton about what it takes to be a leader and how to see things from other people's perspectives. I’ve learned a lot about perception. When people see one kid from ROTC do something, they're going to assume that’s how everyone is. Even in normal clothes, I am still more aware of how I act and things that I think about.
EK: Do any particular stories come to mind when you think about how ROTC has changed your approach to life?
PM: A group of us went down to swim in the river after a training exercise this summer. One of the freshman slipped on the mud, his foot caught a sharp rock, and it split from the bottom of his toes to his heel. I took two socks and tied them tight around his foot for pressure and then elevated it. We got him to the hospital and he ended up getting a bunch of stitches. But in situations like that, I wouldn’t have taken action before because I wouldn’t have known what to do. When that training kicks in is what really helps people get things done. I have a better perspective on life because I just think, ‘I can handle this.’
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