By: Trey Cook, EC Scholar and Honors College Sophomore
Being a part of the ECU Honors College is a unique privilege, one I am reminded of on a daily basis. I have the honor of being part of a tight-knit team within the College that has afforded me incredible opportunities and, more importantly, relationships with fellow Pirates because I am an EC Scholar. I am consistently reminded that I have been given an amazing gift by ECU and by the Honors College. Trips like the EC Scholar sophomore spring break trip to Washington D.C. remind me the opportunities available to me are a gift; the unique relationships I have with faculty like Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Fraley are gifts; and most importantly, the incredible relationships I have with my fellow adventurers in the program are each their own individual gift.
This is why I sign my emails, “most gratefully.” The trip to D.C. prompted me to think afresh on the grand scale of the blessings in my life. Enjoying amazing food at unique restaurants and nighttime tours of downtown Alexandria and the great national memorials afforded me ample opportunities to engage my fellow scholars and friends in conversation (and pelt them with snowballs), glean from their knowledge, better understand their passions, and feed off their joy. The Holocaust Museum, wow, what an intense display of history but also of a challenge. Like few I have entered before, that museum portrayed history so vividly I could almost feel it, but it left me sobered, asking the question, “How will you respond?” I think the Holocaust Museum is there as a memorial yes, but it is also a call to action, a call to the Americans of the now not to allow the events of the past to repeat themselves, whether that be in how we view race in America or in how we react to ISIS’ persecution of Christians, innocents, and others in the Middle East. A behind-the-scenes tour of the Pentagon and a feast at the prestigious Army and Navy Club hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Kathy Shubert, Lt. Col. Vincent Smith, and Mr. Chris Owens again reminded me of the unique benefits and vast connections provided for me by the EC Scholars program and the Honors College. Perhaps the most meaningful event of the trip was a couple hours spent in Arlington National Cemetery hosted by Miss Nancy Summers who also directed us on a tour.
I have a long history with the military. My father has been a member of the Army National Guard for over twenty years. My family has experienced only one deployment, but multiple stateside mobilizations. While I will never be classified as a “military brat,” I have had a hybrid experience of sorts as a military kid. My glimpse into the world of a soldier’s family has inspired again, gratefulness, not only for the sacrifices of Soldiers, but also for the willingness of countless others that sacrifice alongside every single soldier as they release him or her to serve our country. This prompted my small team of Honors students to choose to spend our time supporting Operation Re-entry NC during our freshman Honors Leadership and Service Colloquium (HNRS 2000). We had the unique opportunity to take part in the ideation and design process of their innovative Rover van. This passion is also the drive behind my work in ECU’s biofeedback lab working with a virtual reality simulator in support of Dr. Russoniello and Dr. Fish’s work with Soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and minor Traumatic Brain Injuries.
It is this passion that brought me to my knees upon entering Arlington National Cemetery. I lagged behind a lot that day, partially because there was really no desire to joke around with my friends while traversing that hallowed ground, but mainly because I was overcome with passion, the passion of the silent bodies underground. It was their passion for a flag with some stars and some stripes on it, it was their passion for their brothers-in-arms, it was their passion for those they loved at home that has ultimately brought our country to its current state and paved the way for me to enjoy the education, the relationships, and even a trip to their memorial in such freedom. Just like the tears of gratefulness welling up from within me that day kept flowing, so my thankfulness keeps flowing for my country’s Soldiers and their families, my thankfulness for my scholarship and the Honors College.
Sometimes people ask me why I’m so energetic all the time, or why I’m constantly smiling. Sometimes I respond, “I have a lot of be thankful for.” Maybe that statement makes a little more sense now. Thanks for reading.