My story was about how my attitude was formed as I met the man in the red sash. After about 4 times being directed to pick up and then drop my suitcase, I noticed that the man in the red sash had to bite his lip to keep from smiling (or laughing). At that point, I realized that he was just doing the kind of hazing to me that he had gone through. From then on, I had the attitude that if all those who had gone before me could do it, I could too.
For the eight years before entering USMA, I lived at West Point, most of the time in the Lusk housing area. The night before I entered, I swam in Lusk Reservoir, like my older brother had done. Totally unauthorized, of course. I forgot that something called “The Sound and Light Show” was going to be held that evening. So, about two minutes into my swim, there was a lot of light in the sky, and I rushed to shore before somebody like the MP’s saw me. In the morning, my best friend from Highland Falls High School drove onto post, picked me up and drove me to Central Area. As many know, I never made it to the Swearing-In Ceremony because my trousers were way too tight, I almost passed out, and I was dragged to the hospital. So, only five of the six West Point-based New Cadets were there.
Vividly recall sweating through our first long, slow line of the day, right after leaving the gym … still in civvies, with suitcase in hand and a bewildered expression. After ten or so minutes of the start-stop-start-again shuffle, the tall guy in front of me, clearly bored, turned around, stuck out his hand, grinned, and said, “Mike Krzyzewski, Chicago.” You would not believe the responses I still get telling this, “Guess who I met first at West Point?” story.
My parents drove me from Minnesota – a three-or four-day journey. Along the way, we stopped one night with my sister and brother-in-law in Princeton, N.J. They dropped me off in Highland Falls the night before. I stayed in some sort of boarding house with about 6 prospective cadets. Not being from New York, we were anxious to take advantage of the drinking age of 18 and I had my first and probably last taste of Highland Falls. Knowing virtually nothing about West Point and after a somewhat fitful sleep, we reported early to get a “head start” on the process and arrived when the cadre was truly full of piss and vinegar. My second mistake was arriving in brown loafers sans low cut black shoes (we looked in Southern Minnesota, but they didn’t seem to exist there.), Upon arrival at the 1st New Cadet Company, I learned that I needed them that evening and my company was not to draw shoes for two days; thus it started. I rapidly learned the value of “no excuse, sir”. I survived reporting to the 1st Sergeant of the 1st New Cadet Company for the 1st time as ordered after a few garbled attempts, was later afforded the opportunity to stare at a crack in the pavement for an hour as I was caught “gazing around”. The cadre grudgingly took me for a special clothing formation to get some shoes. Since I had arrived early, they were still busy with others when I had finished getting check marks on my tag. Taking advantage of being in a room on the third floor of New South I went to my room and took a nap, fortunately the cadre didn’t catch me. A somewhat faltering start to our four years together.
My dad, Frank Steele, enlisted at West Point in the 10th Cav. in 1940. On June 30, 1965, Maj. Frank Steele retired at Ft. Dix, NJ. The family drove up to WP early on 7/1 from Levittown, PA leaving behind a large billboard with two pictures indicating that two Lower Bucks County brothers were to attend West Point. We all made ourselves promises, didn’t we? I promised that the morning I would look over to 7th New Cadet Company and didn’t see a particular head sticking up above the crowd, I could leave. To my great distress and disappointment in 1965, but to my enormous pleasure today, Gary served as my particular motivation to push forward and persevere through the first of the hardest four years of my life. The bonds that we, The Best of The Line, have forged are incomparable. We were a self-selected sampling of the best that our country had and has to offer. On the evening of July 1, 1965, we raised our right hands and made a commitment. In our own way, each of us is fulfilling that pledge. While we don’t all agree on the path, we can all “recalculate” to reach our destination. God Bless All Y’all.