The Senior Showcase is a series that highlights West Haven High School graduating seniors.
WEST HAVEN, Aug. 1, 2016 — Jason Frazer and James Wetmore had just a couple of weeks to enjoy being West Haven High School grads this summer before officially moving on and reporting for duty at their next destinations.
Frazer is now a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London with plans to major in marine environmental science, while Wetmore was sworn in to the United States Marine Corps Reserve in early July.
It’s long been a goal of Wetmore’s to join the military. With his father having served in the Army for most of Wetmore’s life, he understands what it’s like to be in the armed forces and to live on a base. But it’s that familiarity with the Army that prompted him to join the Marine Corps.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but I also wanted a new experience. I knew about Army life, so I wanted to dry something different. Two years ago, I decided on the Marines,” Wetmore explained.
His father had spoken to him about his work, and Wetmore talked to a recruiter during high school. Plus, he likes the sense of camaraderie among service members, and a friend of his also planned to enlist.
“It makes me feel more comfortable because I’ll know somebody when I go in,” Wetmore said last month a few days before leaving for boot camp.
After Wetmore was sworn into the Marine Corps Reserve in July, he traveled to South Carolina and is currently completing 12 weeks of boot camp. He said he’ll later return home for a few days before leaving for more training in Missouri. Though he will be in the Reserve, he’s undergoing the same training as active-duty members.
Once training is complete, Wetmore hopes to come back to Connecticut and apply to a university to continue his education. But he’ll maintain his commitment to the Reserve by working with a unit nearby and training one weekend each month and two weeks per year.
He’s unsure of a college major, but listed a marketing course as his favorite WHHS class. He was a member of the WHHS DECA chapter, which helps high-schoolers explore careers in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance hospitality and management, and competed twice in a statewide DECA competition.
Wetmore was also on the WHHS football team as a freshman and worked at restaurants in town while still a student.
He says he’ll miss his friends and family most as he embarks on the next chapter of his life, though he’s looking forward to the future. But what about the next few months of drill instructors, combat training, strict schedules and barracks-living?
“I’m nervous even talking about it. I’m just excited about graduating boot camp. That’s going to be a big step,” Wetmore said. “But it will be nice being able to meet new people and having those people next to me as we’re all going through the same thing.”
For Frazer, the idea of a military career and continuing his education at the USCGA surfaced in the middle of his junior year at WHHS when he began exploring post-high school options and considered his interest in the ocean. He liked what he saw in his research, but wanted a real-life preview.
The school’s week-long Academy Introduction Mission provided that for him last summer, giving Frazer the chance to go sailing for the first time, hear from officers about the academy, compete in a robotics contest, challenge himself in a physical fitness exam, and experience military discipline (think instructors yelling commands).
He was hooked. USCGA became his top choice, though he worried it may be a bit out of reach. He had successfully performed in the AIM summer program, but wanted to prove himself more in the classroom. So he signed up for AP (college-level) chemistry, physics and calculus in his senior year at WHHS and continued working on physical conditioning on his own and by joining the WHHS track team (applying to the school requires a physical fitness exam).
At first, Frazer was offered a spot at USCGA for fall 2017. But toward the end of his senior year, he learned he secured a place in this year’s group of cadets and will be playing basketball for the school.
“I was at a loss for words. It felt surreal. I was so excited,” Frazer said soon after learning he would start at the academy this summer. “I feel prepared. I just think about what I can do and that they wouldn’t have chosen me if they didn’t think I could succeed.”
He’s been at USCGA since June 27, which is when all freshmen were to report to school. They immediately entered training and physical conditioning sessions and will take placement exams for fall classes.
While he was at WHHS, Frazer played for WHHS’ basketball team all four years of his high school career, emerging as the best three-point shooter in the SCC in his junior and senior years, and was a member of the National Honor Society and Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals group. Frazer also volunteered with the Family Resource Center, which is based in Savin Rock Community School, and helped out at family game nights at the West Haven Community House.
His days will look a lot different now—and start much earlier—but he’s excited about being a cadet.
“I’m ready to take it all on. It’s going to be tough, really tough. But I’m in a great situation, and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Frazer said. “It’s a minimum of a five-year commitment in the Coast Guard after school, but I want to make a career out of it.”