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Erkman follows road to dream

July 23, 2002|by EDWARD MARSHALL

edwardm@herald-mail.com

Todd Erkman achieved one of his life's goals this summer when he began his first semester at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Erkman, 19, who grew up in Annapolis before moving to Boonsboro six years ago, said his acceptance to the academy was the culmination of a boyhood dream.

"It was great. It took a second to actually sink in," said the St. Maria Goretti High School graduate.

Erkman, who grew up just minutes from the academy's campus, or "The Yard" as midshipmen call it, said hearing the news was slightly overwhelming.

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Erkman's road to the academy was not without its ups and downs. Despite meeting all the admission requirements, Erkman originally was accepted to the academy as an alternate.

Uncertain about his chances of officially being admitted, Erkman faced the difficult decision of whether to accept one of the numerous offers made by other interested schools or continue working to achieve his dream. He chose the latter.

"He was just single-minded in attaining this goal. I think a lot of kids would have given up," said his mother, Nancy Erkman.

Erkman had to work even harder for another year before he was officially allowed to attend the academy. During his year-in-wait, he was sponsored by the Naval Academy's Alumni Association to attend Bridgton Academy, a 13th-year prep school in North Bridgton, Maine.

"It wasn't a done deal," Erkman said. "I had to maintain the grades, follow the rules. I knew I had to stay focused to reach my goal."

Erkman's dream of becoming a member of the academy is pursued by many but achieved by only a few. Of the 11,568 applicants in 2001, only 1,471 were admitted.

Erkman, who left for the academy on June 27, is spending his first seven weeks at the academy in what is known as "plebe summer," a rigorous training period designed to ease the transition of new students from civilian to military life.

Training begins at dawn for plebes, the Navy's term for freshmen, and lasts well into the night.

"For the next seven weeks, I'm going to be physically pushed to the limit," Erkman said. "It's going to be a big change. Every liberty you take for granted gets taken away and you have to gradually earn it back."

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