Serving his country has always been the dream.
And now Tidewater Community College graduate Patrick Cagas is on his way. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in summer 2015. His next stop is Basic School in Quantico, Va.
Cagas earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences in 2013 and while at the college joined the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC program, a consortium of TCC, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Hampton University and Regent University. He was an inaugural member and vice president of the Military and Veterans Student Association (MVSA) through the Center for Military and Veterans Education.
Military service is a family tradition, as Cagas’ father served as an electrician in the U.S. Navy. This sparked Cagas’ interest in forging a similar yet unique path. “I know there are more prestigious ways to get where I am now,” Cagas said. “But my story shows that it doesn’t matter where you come from. With hard work, you can get there.”
Cagas, 22, a 2011 graduate of Salem High, participated in the NJROTC program there and completed an advanced diploma before attending TCC.
“At TCC I learned time management and the discipline to stay focused on academics. I mastered being a student before moving on to a university,” he said. “Being part of MVSA was a great experience because we all have connections to the military. It gave me the opportunity to talk with veterans who are older and learn about their military careers,” Cagas said. “I also got to connect with active duty members who can tell you what military life is like right now.”
He also found being part of the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC program helpful.
“The program shaped and matured me into a better person,” Cagas said. “It required a lot of discipline, time management and hard work, but it was such a great experience. The camaraderie is amazing. Everyone pushes each other to be better than the day before.”
Cagas was awarded the Frederick C. Branch scholarship to attend Norfolk State, enabling him to earn his bachelor’s degree debt-free. “I was working really hard to be the first one in my family to graduate with a college degree and a commission,” he said. Cagas graduated from NSU in May 2105.
“I’d like to continue my education at some point,” Cagas added. “For now I’m looking forward to this new journey in my life.”