Be that Grateful Nation

Be that Grateful Nation

Be that Grateful Nation

The school was honored to welcome back alumnus Brendan Richichi ’17 on Veterans Day to speak to Lower and Upper School students. 

Brendan graduated last spring from the U.S. Air Force Academy with Military Honors and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. While at the Academy, Brendan was a four-year varsity swimmer and was nominated as captain in his senior year, and held numerous other leadership positions while in school.

During his first semester, managing the responsibilities of swimming, academics, and military duties wasn’t easy. “Once I stepped on deck at my first swim practice at the Academy, I quickly was humbled and learned that I was entering another level of competitive sports,” Brendan said. “The intensity was always high. I felt as if I had to make the team each practice and prove that I really wanted to be there and that I really did want to contribute to the team in all aspects, not just swimming.”  In 2019 the Air Force men’s swim team won a conference championship that gave them the modern conference record for most points scored by a winning team.

During the summer of 2019, Brendan spent two weeks at Columbus Air Force Base shadowing Second Lieutenants and observing what Undergraduate Pilot Training was like. When he returned to the Academy, he began training the incoming Class of 2023 as an element leader. “It was one of my favorite experiences of the Academy so far,” Brendan said. “Having the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of these cadets is unparalleled. I was proud to watch them complete basic cadet training and I am proud every day to watch them continue their journey through the Academy.” 

In the fall of 2020, Brendan assumed the position of  Cadet Vice Wing Commander. “The Cadet Vice Wing Commander is the second-highest-ranking position a cadet can hold while at the Air Force Academy,” Brendan explained. “There are a multitude of duties that the Vice Wing Commander inherits in his or her position. In short, the Cadet Vice Wing Commander is responsible for working with the Wing Commander (AFCW/CC) in executing the policy and supervision of the roughly 4,000 cadets that are a part of the Cadet Wing. In addition to the entire Cadet Wing, we supervise the entire cadet chain of command, which includes the four Cadet Group Commanders and 40 Cadet Squadron Commander.” Incoming cadets he trained included recent SSSAS graduate Christian DePollar ’19.

Brendan’s day at SSSAS began on the Lower School campus, where he spoke to fifth-graders about leadership and why he chose to serve. He was very pleased to connect with some of his former teachers, including his kindergarten teacher Leslie Williams. 

Brendan Richichi ’17 speaking to the fifth grade.

 Reconnecting with his kindergarten teacher, Leslie Williams.

Later in the morning at the Upper School, he visited some classes and then gave a thoughtful speech about those who have inspired him and the importance of Veterans Day in the Chapel/Performing Arts Center. Following the assembly, he had lunch with students who are interested in pursuing collegiate athletics and/or attending a service academy. 

Currently stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Brendan is now in training to be a pilot in Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot program, a NATO training program aimed at producing combat oriented pilots. At the conclusion of the 55-week program, student pilots are awarded the rating of Pilot in the Air Force with flight time in the T-6 Texan II and the T-38 Talon.

Brendan attributes much of his success to his education at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes and the lessons he learned from his teachers. “SSSAS has the best faculty in the world, without question,” he said. “I cannot say it enough, the faculty truly cares about their students, not just in the sense of their academic development, but in their personal development. Nearly every single faculty member throughout the Lower, Middle, and Upper School contributed to my development as a person.” The school’s mission is well aligned with success at the military academies. “SSSAS aims to develop students to pursue goodness as well as knowledge,” he continued. “At the Academy, the spirit of our honor code is to always do the right thing and live honorably. What I valued from SSSAS is that I was developed as a student and a person. Academics aside, your character is what will carry you through the challenges of life.” 

Excerpts from Brendan’s speech at the Upper School:

“At just 18, my grandfather decided to preserve those ideals that we as Americans hold so dear. My grandfather was brilliant, funny, humble and proud; a father and husband. I couldn’t help but look up to him in every way.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away, and on that day on April 12, 2013, my dad thought that I should receive his tri-folded American Flag. At his burial, an Army soldier folded the American Flag and handed it to me and stated, ‘On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.’ As I listened to Taps play and echo into the distance, I thought about the words the soldier just said to me, more specifically, a grateful nation…

…There are over 19 million veterans living in the United States, all coming from various walks of life. Veterans are police officers, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and every profession in between. They are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters…Veterans are even the kid from the Bronx that grew up to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and eventually the Secretary of State, they are people like Colin Powell. 

And there are some veterans known only to God, laying a few miles up the road, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

The common thread through all these individuals is their selflessness and desire to continue to serve. These humble heroes are more prevalent than one might think, they are our neighbors, our friends and family, members of this community, and they are even the strangers we walk past on the street… 

Brendan speaking at the Upper School

As I listened to Taps play and echo into the distance, I thought about the words the soldier just said to me, more specifically, a grateful nation.

– Brandon Richichi ’17

…Remind yourself on Veteran’s Day and every day that veterans live and work all around you and your support for them is invaluable. As the Army Soldier said to me—on behalf of a grateful nation—I say to you, be that grateful nation.”