By Judy Reed
A casual observer might think that enrolling in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York has become a military tradition in the Noreen family. Colonel Tom Noreen graduated from West Point, as did two of his daughters, Sarah and Janet. Peter Noreen, a 2009 graduate of Cedar Springs High School, is the latest Noreen to become a cadet at one of the world’s preeminent leader development institutions.
But Peter, the son of Tom and Nancy, of Nelson Township, will be the first to admit that he isn’t doing it just because of a family tradition. “I can say with 100 percent certainty that if my dad and sisters hadn’t gone, I probably wouldn’t be there. But it can be frustrating when people lump us all together. We all joined for our own reasons,” he explained. “It’s a huge opportunity.”
West Point’s mission is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country. The student body, or Corps of Cadets, numbers 4,400 and each year approximately 1,000 cadets join the Long Gray Line as they graduate and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.
Peter noted that tradition runs deep at West Point. “I am awed by the magnitude of it all. The legacy can be intimidating, but it’s cool to be a part of it,” he explained.
While Peter was in high school, drama and music were two of his big interests, and still are. When he graduated in 2009, he went to Western Michigan University to join their theater program. He had started the process to join West Point while in high school, but wasn’t sure he really wanted to go. When he found out he had been accepted, he had to make a decision. And even though he still thinks of himself as a theater kid, he’s sure it was the right one.
“It’s fascinating the things we have the opportunity to do,” he said.
Peter said that singing with the West Point Glee Club has been an amazing experience. “I’ve sung at Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ol’ Opry, sang backup for Trace Adkins—a ton of things I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting to do with my theater degree,” he explained. He also said that CBS recorded a 30 second spot of their glee club singing that will be aired either right before the Army-Navy football game, or during the documentary slated to run in December.
He also told of cadet who was chosen to play the violin during one of the football games. “He played before thousands of people. I know people who practice 6 hours a day back in Kalamazoo would love to have that type of venue,” he said.
And joining West Point doesn’t mean he’s given up theater. Last fall, he played the part of Jonathan in “Arsenic and Old Lace”—the very same part his grandpa, Jack Clark once played. “Mom and grandma (Marge Clark) drove 14 hours to see me in it,” he said.
Peter said that he does wish he had talked with someone a little more about what to expect when he first went in, because it was a big culture shock. “I had no clue what I was getting into,” he said. “I went from doing things for myself (on a vacation in Egypt), to having someone be with me all the time. I couldn’t do anything on my own. I resented it at first. But once you get through it, things change.”
Peter, who is majoring in Arabic, takes 23 credits and stays busy. For every cadet there is formation at 6:50 a.m. and then all 4,400 cadets sit down together for breakfast. Classes end at 4. Curricular activities take place between 6 and 8 p.m., then it’s study time and off to bed.
After graduation, cadets sign on for five years of service.
Peter joined in the summer of 2010, and said that after two years in, a cadet has to make a declaration on whether they are going to continue. That time will come for him next year. “It’s such a huge opportunity. I never thought it would be me. But I plan to stay,” he said.
If anyone is thinking of applying to West Point and would like to talk to Peter, he’d be happy to answer any questions you have. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.