Long, gray line stretches from Falmouth to West Point, where siblings continue family tradition
FALMOUTH — At least one local resident is hoping for a big upset in this year's Army-Navy football game.
Cooper Lycan, along with his freshman classmates at West Point, will receive "relaxed privileges" for the rest of the school year if Army beats its rival on Dec. 14. That means fewer chores, fewer formalities and a lot less standing around in formation, he said.
Lycan is a plebeian at the storied U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he is outranked by his sister and fellow cadet Allie Lycan, a junior. Both are graduates of Falmouth High School.
The siblings come from a long line of gray. Their grandfather is a West Point graduate in the Class of 1962, and also served on the academy's staff for 21 years. The Lycans' aunt and uncle are also West Point graduates from 1991 and '94. Their aunt is now associate dean at the school of about 4,600 cadets.
That legacy is apparent outside the Lycans' house near Falmouth Country Club, where a West Point flag flies from the front doorway and every vehicle in the driveway is plastered with Army and West Point stickers. Both siblings were home for a brief respite over Thanksgiving.
Cooper's quality of life might hinge on the outcome of this month's football game, but soccer is his sport. He was senior captain on Falmouth High School's state championship team last year; this year, he walked onto Army's Division 1 team as one of 10 freshman on a 28-player roster.
Before joining the team, however, Cooper endured six weeks of basic training over the summer, which included a few unusual encounters with his older sister.
Allie, 20, was a squad leader for a group of freshmen. Her 19-year-old brother wasn't a direct report, but he was a subordinate, Allie recalled.
"It was a weird experience," she said. "There was one encounter when I ran into him and he was calling me 'Sgt. Lycan' and I was calling him 'New Cadet Lycan.' It was really weird to say the least."
"It was awkward," Cooper added.
Cooper said basic training was difficult. For six weeks, new cadets are "cut off from the rest of the world." They aren't allowed to use cell phones or computers, and they're subject to every whim of their superior officers.
"You're learning how to be a follower," he said. "You have no power whatsoever. You don't have any say in anything. You just have to do whatever people tell you, no matter how stupid it is, no matter how much time you're wasting, you have to do it."
The first three weeks of basic training involves discipline, called "Beast I," followed by "Beast II," which was three weeks of what Cooper called "Army stuff."
"Shooting guns. Throwing grenades," he said.
Their grandfather, retired Lt. Col. Elliott Fishburne, said the new cadets have it easy. Fishburne served 22 years in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Vietnam. Afterward, he worked for 22 years as West Point's director of alumni affairs.
Today, Fishburne lives a mile outside the service academy gate.
"I never got very far. When I drove out the gate in 1962, I said, 'I'm not looking back and I'm not coming back,' but there I am," he said.
Fishburne said he's lucky to be surrounded by family in West Point, but they might not have come if basic training hadn't evolved over the years.
"If I'd told them the way we had it, they wouldn't have gone there," he joked. "It's changed an awful lot. I'm not sure the young people today could go through what we went through in 1958. There's just a different mindset."
Back then, cadets endured physical hazing, including food deprivation. Today, the worst of it includes standing in formation for upwards of 45 minutes, Cooper said.
West Point offers a free, top-notch liberal arts education, but there's a catch. Graduates are committed to the U.S. Army for five years after graduation.
Both Lycan siblings sad they're not intimidated by the possibility of combat deployments.
"Not really," Cooper said. "They prepare you really well. I think most people, by the time they get out, aren't intimidated by it, because they ease you into it."
"We talk about things at West Point that I know other kids don't talk about," she said. "We talk about deployment on such a casual basis that it's not really a scary thing anymore. We're probably going to get deployed to Afghanistan, we might end up somewhere else, but that's what we're here for."
Their mother, Marsha Lycan, grew up on the West Point campus, but did not attend. (Instead, she chose the women's soccer program at the College of William & Mary, she said.) Marsha said she tries not to think about her children being deployed, but it's also just a matter of fact for members of her family.
"It's not like you want your kids to go off to war, but the way our family thinks about it, it's an honorable thing," she said. "I am proud of them for making that decision."