This article featuring senior track & field captain Andrew Ferrara, written by John Ferro, orginally appeared in the Army Official Sports Report on February 11, 2010. Part II was posted on February 12, 2010.
Links: Part I | Part II
Ferrara Runs Through Personal Tragedy
by John Ferro, Associate Editor - Official Sports Report
Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part story profiling track and field athlete Andrew Ferrara.
If all goes well, Andrew Ferrara will represent the United States Military Academy at the NCAA Track & Field Championships this spring not as a cadet, but as an officer.
Ferrara, a senior captain on the track team, hopes to qualify individually in the 800-meter run, the event he won last year at the Patriot League indoor championships and in which he finished second at the outdoor league meet. If he qualifies, Ferrara will race in the NCAA championship meet at the University of Oregon June 9-12, three weeks after he graduates and earns his commission as a second lieutenant.
Not only would it be the crowning achievement of his running career, it would provide a chance for his California-based family to watch him race.
"Huge," he said. "It would mean a lot to have my family around and see me run."
Ferrara is the youngest of four brothers, two of whom graduated from West Point. His time along the Hudson Highlands has been marked by success on the track, great achievement among the Corps of Cadets - and by one terrible, personal tragedy that brought home exactly what is at stake when one is commissioned as an officer at a time of war. More on that later.
Right now, it's the "gloom period" at West Point. It's dark most of the time and it's cold.
The sky, typically, is gray. The buildings are gray. The uniforms are gray. The ground is ... well, white.
But Ferrara is hardly feeling gloomy. A couple of weeks ago, he qualified for the IC4A Championships in the 500, an event he had only run once before. He's posted some of his best start-of-the-season times in the 800. Off the track, he is one of four regimental commanders, the second-highest ranking officers in the corps, reporting to the First Captain.
"I have 2nd Regiment, which is about 1,200 cadets that I am responsible for," he said. "My job is basically carrying out the duties the First Captain wants focused on, as well as some other smaller tasks within cadet life."
Lately, Ferrara has spent his administrative time overseeing the planning for "Super Saturday," an eight-hour training event for the academic year focusing on marksmanship, land navigation, communications, soldier first-responder (basically first aid) and weapons familiarization. Hundreds of cadets take part in the training, requiring lots of logistical planning.
Neither of Ferrara's brothers who came through West Point before him achieved the same level of rank he now holds. Marcus, now a Major, was the first. He graduated in 1997. Then came Matthew, who graduated in 2005 and rose to the rank of captain. Another brother, Damon, graduated from the ROTC program at the University of Southern California in 2008 and is a second lieutenant.
Ferrara said that he sought the counsel of his brothers when he was considering whether to follow them to West Point. Matthew, who had just completed Ranger Training, gave a wholehearted endorsement. Marcus, who commanded a company during the second invasion of Fallujah, did not answer at first.
"My brother Marcus had gotten back from Iraq just a month prior," Andrew said. "He hesitated and didn't give me an answer first. He came back to me a week later and said, 'Andy I was upset at the time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.'"
Marcus brought home a stack of memorial packets from his time in Iraq.
"We never said anything about the loss," Andrew said. "But I saw the stack of pamphlets and that's all I needed to see. So, there was a realization (about the danger). But there was also that thought of invincibility. We never thought anything would happen to Marcus. We wouldn't hear from him for a while. And you'd hear from him and you'd think, 'Of course he's going to be OK because he's invincible.' "
When it was Matt's turn to serve in Afghanistan, the thought was the same.
"Very independent," Andrew said. "He didn't call too often."
Andrew said he received one call from Matt while he was in Afghanistan. It was the last time the two brothers ever spoke.
Continue to Part II: "I thought, 'what is going on?' "