After a little more than a year and a half in the National Guard, Chisum High School Senior Cayden Day made a shift in his military career when he received an offer of admissions letter to join USMA – West Point Prep.
“I’m very excited and nervous at the same time,” Day said. “It’s going to be different than basic training was. I know as soon as I get out of West Point – once I make my way through West Point Prep and West Point – I’ll be a 2nd Lieutenant over a platoon. So it’s kind of nerve-racking.”
Originally from Spokane, Washington, but lived in Paris since he was 4, Day is as excited to get into USMA as he was when he went through basic training with the National Guard; even though it was difficult and he had to prepare mentally.
“When I was going, I was excited,” Day said, referencing his time in basic training. “I was ready to jump-start my military career. It’s about the same with West Point; I’m ready to get there and get started.”
While the military has been a big part of Day’s life because of his dad, he is also excited to get to honor those who have already served – “the men and women who have died and those who continue to serve.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here today, free to do whatever we want,” Day said.
CONSIDERED THE LETTER AS ONE SENIORS ‘GET ALL THE TIME FROM A SCHOOL’
When Day first received the USMA-West Point Prep offer letter, he thought it was “like another letter you get all the time from a school when you’re a senior.”
“I talked to my sergeant about it and he told me it was a big deal and that I needed to apply. Now, here I am,” he said.
After he considered what it meant to be accepted to USMA, Day said he felt conflicted – both excited and a little upset.
“I came in not knowing if I was even going to apply to West Point, much less get in,” He said, “and there’s probably this guy or girl that’s been thinking about it since they were like 9 or 10, and I just took their place.”
However, Texas Army National Guard recruiter, Staff-Sergeant Rasheen Davis Sr., Day’s recruiter who he also considers family, said the letter was well deserved.
“He’s an amazing soldier,” Davis said, referring to Day’s already enlistment in the National Guard for more than 18 months. “He is very trustworthy, responsible, reliable. He has outstanding leadership potential, and I kind of noticed that from day one. I think he will be an asset to the Army, and I think he’ll truly be an asset to whatever he chooses to do in life. He is an amazing young man.”
Davis and Day have known one another since before he enlisted, because Davis also enlisted Day’s dad, Jason Albo.
COMPETITIVE RELATIONSHIP, HUMOR, ‘GOING TO DO GREAT THINGS’
Jason stepped in as Day’s dad about 17 years ago, when he was just a 1 year old, and the two have always had a competitive relationship when it came to everything – shooting, rifle qualifications, weights and rank.
“There’s always a lot of trash-talking between us around the dinner table, because of our competitive relationship,” Day said.
He said his dad has been a big influence on his decision to join the military.
“If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have even joined the military,” he said.
When he was younger, Day said he remembers getting model toy cars from Jason while he was deployed in Iraq.
“I remember getting the fake, orange-tipped army guns making loud noises and rolling around in the yard for hours playing Army,” Day said. “I’ve told my mom since I was little I was going to grow up to be like my dad.”
“So I’m very excited to have him as my first salute. It’ll be a very emotional time for the both of us, and I’m sure it will also be a proud moment for us both.”
Day said it will not only be a proud moment for him because he will receive his first salute, but also because he will have finished another step, advancing his military career.
“I’ll know I’ve accomplished it,” he said. “I’ll have successfully gone through West Point and that he can look at me and say, ‘I have a son who’s accomplished and gotten a higher rank than I am in five years.’”
Jason said he is already proud of Day, and he was proud of Day before joining the military and having received the letter to USMA, “but now, I’m extremely proud of him.”
“I can’t wait to be there to be his first salute,” he said. “I’m very proud to have been in his life to see the man he has become and the great things that he’s going to do. He’s always had a love for the military and me showing up to the school in uniform and stuff like that. So, joining the Army has always been something he wanted to do.”
Day’s mom, Shannon Albo, said she is extremely excited for him, but “I haven’t gotten to the crying part yet.”
“Right now I’m just excited for him and look forward to getting to drive him up to New York in July,” she said.
A trait of Day’s that stands out to his mom is his sense of humor because not many people see that side of him. Shannon said he has the military already instilled in him.
“Only a select few get to see his humor,” she said. “He’s usually very serious. But, if you get to really know him, and you see that side of him, he is hilarious.”
Sgt. Davis, considering Day as family, said Day is like an extended son.
“Watching him accomplish so many things in life, it brings tears to his mom and dad; it makes me extremely proud as well,” Davis said. “He’s like an extended son, and I wish him all the best of luck. When he’s at USMA, I know he’s going to do some great things, and I look forward to seeing what all he accomplishes.”
CAYDEN DAY: ‘A NATURAL BORN LEADER’
Day, having enlisted in the National Guard almost immediately after turning 17, was the first student Davis has enlisted in the military to be accepted to USMA. Davis says it is well-deserved because Davis considers Day a born leader.
“His leadership skills stand out to me,” Davis said. “He’s a natural-born leader, and he was born to be a leader. As for his character, he’s very strong-willed, doesn’t give up easily, and is extremely determined. You can’t tell him he can’t do something, because he will prove you wrong.”
Day said he is one of two seniors who pole vault and they have no coach for the sport. He and George Gribble took the step and have helped coach a few sophomore and freshmen, “whoever wanted to do it, and teach them the basics we’ve learned when we did have a coach.”
Day plans to serve the country, “until I don’t enjoy it anymore.”
“Either that or until I stop learning,” he said. “As a leader, once you stop learning, you’re no longer doing your job right. You should always be learning from people below you and above you. You should always have that eagerness to learn and love what you’re doing. So, if you’re not learning anything and you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, why are you doing it?”
PLANS TO RETURN TO PARIS TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY
Once Day is finished with West Point Prep, West Point and serving the country, he plans to come back to Paris and serve on the police force. While in West Point, after USMA, Day plans to work toward a degree in criminal justice because he wants to protect others.
“I enjoy protecting others and being the one others can count on in a dire situation,” he said. “Which, in the police force, that’s your main job. The police force is the front line in the civilian world. Infantrymen are the front line in the military world, they’re the type of guys you look to when stuff goes bad.”
Some advice that has stuck with Day throughout his 18 years: “Don’t be scared to try your best and fail.”
“If you try your best and fail, it’s better than not trying at all and failing,” Day said. “So, always do your best in whatever you’re doing. As we say, ‘full send it.’”