By Regan Talley

SYRACUSE, NY, Oct. 2, 2018–  At 13 years old, Kathleen Edwards recalls standing in the woods alone for two hours, clutching a rubber duck as part of a military training exercise. Acting as the “opposition force,” she had to remain still in the freezing cold until cadets in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps found her and began “firing.” Clad in pink snow boots and a matching coat, Edwards had to play dead until the exercise was complete. She diligently followed the instructions for the drill, which was conducted by her father, a professor of military science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Five years later at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome, Edwards stands in formation on the turf field with a rifle in hand, before the Syracuse Orange play the Florida State Seminoles in football. Now a Cadet for the University’s ROTC program, Edwards is a member of The Honor Guard. While the National Anthem is belted throughout the stadium, it is her job to stand and pay tribute to those who have served. She is not only doing her father proud, but also following in the footsteps of her mother.

Growing up with two parents dedicated to serving their country, Edwards had a unique childhood, living in eight different locations across the world, with exposure to a variety of cultures -- from speaking with a British accent for three years to babysitting for the flyer of Marine One.

“I didn’t understand at the time how few people get that opportunity,” she said. Her father, a graduate of The United States Military Academy, served for 24 years, and taught military science at MIT and Harvard University. Her mother was a member of the ROTC program at Johns Hopkins University. Instead of going on their honeymoon, her parents got deployed to Bosnia shortly after their wedding. By the time Edwards was born, her mother had completed her military service. Edwards credits her father as her greatest influence to serve her country.

“My dad’s service shaped my life 100 percent,” she recalls. “Because we moved every two years, my siblings and I were always starting over. This affected the way we interacted with others and who we chose to keep close,” she remarked. However, with the military having such a big impact on her life, she didn’t perceive the responsibility to be a challenge. She remembers thinking, “If both of them could be in the military, then why couldn’t I?”

She also had the courage to take on even more. In addition to ROTC, Edwards is the assistant managing editor for University Girl, a campus magazine and serves as a Newhouse student representative for Public Relations on the faculty awards committee. What’s more, she is in the process of attaining a Public Relations Student Society of America membership, trying out for the ski team, and applying to be an iSchool dual. While most students would shudder at the sheer list of extracurriculars, Edwards takes it in stride. Although she is unique in her military accomplishments and background, it’s her activities and push to succeed that set her apart from other sophomores.

Her father, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Adam Edwards, finds her dedication and drive inspiring. “When she finds things she is interested in, she gives it 100 percent,” he proudly remarked.

Her friend, Cadet Toby Craner, is baffled by her endless activities. “I was so impressed with how much Kate balances,” he remarked. “Military training is just so intense -- I would have been too stressed.” While finding balance can be challenging, Edwards looks to her mother for guidance.

“Since my mom was in ROTC, she gives me advice on being a female in the military and managing my school work with other responsibilities,” Edwards remarks.

Equally remarkable is her grit. Since Edwards’s father worked with the ROTC program at two prestigious universities, he had Edwards participate in a variety of military exercises. This gave her a first-hand glimpse into the strength and discipline it takes to be an ROTC cadet. So when it came time for applying to college, it was only fitting that she pursue a military scholarship. The ROTC scholarship made Syracuse, and more importantly, the Newhouse School of Public Communications, an option.

Now a sophomore studying public relations, Edwards dreams of becoming a civil affairs officer, acting as the liaison in charge of communicating effectively with civilians about military operations and exercises.

She has come a long way from opposition drills in the woods. Two years from now Edwards will be standing on the same football field where she stood in formation -- exchanging her rifle for a diploma in hand. While she will have fulfilled her college obligations, her military duties are far from over. Upon graduating, she will go into active duty for four years, followed by another four years of inactive service. This will open the door to a communications role in the military, combining the best of both worlds -- doing what she loves and using what she has learned.

 

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