Greenwich teen prepares for ultimate service commitment at Naval Academy

As the local representative for the Blue and Gold Officer Program, Jim Carrier, at left, had the honor of being able to present Gardy Lebon with his official acceptance into the U.S. Naval Academy. —Ken Borsuk

As the local representative for the Blue and Gold Officer Program, Jim Carrier, at left, had the honor of being able to present Gardy Lebon with his official acceptance into the U.S. Naval Academy. —Ken Borsuk

Gardy Lebon has always known that he wanted to serve his country. The only question was how, and now his desire and commitment are leading him to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he wants to learn to be a Navy pilot.

As his fellow seniors at Greenwich High School are sweating finding out which colleges they’ve been accepted to and trying to decide what direction their future will go in, Mr. Lebon is sure of his choice. In a recent interview with the Post, Mr. Lebon said he understands the commitment he’s making and is dedicated to this path.

“I always wanted to serve,” Mr. Lebon said. “The whole idea of service is what’s put me on this path toward Navy. I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do. All my life, I’ve been doing community service, and I think the service part is one of the most important things anybody can do. You need to serve something, and that’s what I’ve been doing all my life. This is the next step.”

Mr. Lebon has been doing community service since he was a seventh grader at Central Middle School, and he brought that with him to GHS, where he was one of the co-founders of Roots and Shoots, a service club at the school that fills many roles in town, including a Thanksgiving food drive that earned its members recognition from the town. But charity in the community is one thing. What Mr. Lebon is doing means he’ll be putting his life on the line, particularly as a pilot.

“That comes from loving your country,” Mr. Lebon said. “I learned that from my mom. We come from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and my mom makes sure I know that. She makes sure I know where I came from and what we have being in this country and being in Greenwich and being privileged to go to these schools. The idea of protecting that is very important.”

While the desire to serve has always been there, Mr. Lebon was not always focused on the Navy. Instead, he said, he initially felt the draw toward West Point to become an officer in the Army. But he was keeping his options open and he went on a visit to the Naval Academy. That was when he knew it was the place for him. He had loved his visits to West Point, but this was different.

“It was the most amazing experience,” Mr. Lebon said, “even though I was only there for three hours. I met a midshipman there and he was the most amazing person I had ever met in my life. He was so similar to me, and that connected me to the school. He played the same sports that I do. We had the same interests but it went beyond that. We talked for an hour about the admissions process and he told me that he had been in the same position I was in where he was a little shaky about the school and wasn’t sure where he wanted to go. He really showed me what attending the academy could do and how it had benefited him.”

Mr. Lebon said he can’t wait to get started. While his fellow students will be celebrating their summer vacation, there’s only a very short period between when he and his classmates will be graduating and when Mr. Lebon will be expected to report in Annapolis. That might bother some, but it makes Mr. Lebon even more eager to “fast forward” through the rest of his senior year to graduation.

“I know it’s going to change me, and I know it’s going to make me a better person at the end of the day,” Mr. Lebon said. “I’m not thinking about the four years at college. I’m thinking about the service part of this. I really want to serve the Navy. West Point had pretty limited options going out, and you can’t fly in the Army. I’ve never flown before and I want to try it. Not many people can do that, and it’s one of the bravest things you can do. Man is not meant to fly in mid-air, and I always try to push myself.”

One question that remains is whether Mr. Lebon will seek to be a career Navy officer. He said in the beginning he was “dead set” on making this his career, but on his visit to the academy, he met with a lot of people who advised him not to have the immediate answer yet. They urged him to experience naval service first before deciding on whether to make it a career.

Mr. Lebon knows this will not be easy. There’s physical and mental preparation that goes into making a commitment like attending the Naval Academy. And it’s not just the demands of the Navy training he has to focus on, it’s the rigorous academic schedule that comes in addition to that. Mr. Lebon will be majoring in electrical engineering, one of the most challenging areas of study the academy offers.

“As soon as you commit to it, you can’t give up,” Mr. Lebon said. “You have to try your hardest. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I plan on continuing to do.”

An athlete since childhood, Mr. Lebon, who played football, lacrosse, basketball and wrestled at GHS and was captain of the rugby team, said he’s always gone into everything wanting to be the best at it. He likes setting goals and meeting them, and combining that with his desire to serve makes him convinced that he’s made the right decision. He’s not just enlisting in the Navy, he’s going into the academy because he wants to lead others.

He added, “I know it’s going to be hard and no one is ever really ready for that, but I know I’m going to do my best and I know my best is capable of getting me through this.”

It was a trip to GHS’s annual college fair that brought further clarity to Mr. Lebon’s decision-making process because that’s where he met Greenwich resident Jim Carrier, who serves as the Blue and Gold Officer Program representative for the area and has helped several other local students with their application process to the Naval Academy.

“Gardy is very focused and very sincere,” Mr. Carrier said. “When you look him in the eyes you can see that he is on a mission to serve his country. He understands, and that’s what he wants to do. You don’t apply for the service academies thinking, Maybe this will be a good option. Gardy knew he wanted to serve his country and is pursuing a dream.”

It’s not just Mr. Carrier who has a firm belief in Mr. Lebon’s future. After his visit to the Naval Academy last fall, Mr. Carrier said he heard back from “every single person in the chain of command who met him.”

“They called me and said, ‘This young man is exemplary. We have to get him to the Naval Academy,’” Mr. Carrier said. “They wanted him on their team. Gardy could go to college wherever he wants. He could go to Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Army, or Air Force, and he wants to go to the Naval Academy. That’s impressive.”

 

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