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  • Writer's pictureSea Cadets 911 PR - INST Lena Burkut

Meet the Class of 2021: Braeden Wienholtz

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

My name is Braeden Wienholtz, I am from a small town of Antioch Illinois near the border of Wisconsin and I attended Antioch Community High School.

Growing up there was not much to do besides play video games with my family but I got old enough where I had to decide to sport. I did not care for football so I tried baseball. Truth is, I was terrible, my team, the Raptors, did win the local championship which I was pretty proud of even though I was in the outfield picking daisies rather than paying attention. After that season I tried again but really stopped liking it.

So I started looking for a sport to play, eventually this led me to Competitive Swimming. This would turn out to be a great decision as it would make me the man that you know today. I knew starting off I was not going to be the next Phelps, but that did not matter to me. I wanted to be the best swimmer on the whole team. However, I was tall so skinny, I would have to get out of the pool so often because I was so cold. Then my older brother joined the swim team, since he was older and stronger he got placed on the fastest group of the entire swim team. I got placed on the Green team which was one below my brother in blue. This is where I met some of my friends that I hold very close to my heart even though we do not talk much anymore.

Spending one hour a day up to 6 times per week allowed you to really connect with them. I have always considered them my second family and I wish I could have spent more time with them. No matter how you were feeling that day going to swim practice really helped me get by. I would grow alongside these friends for over 5 years and never once did you get mad at each other.

Why would you? What good would come out of it? You were not just trying to swim better for yourself but for the team. Nothing will ever beat the feeling of seeing your teammates cheering you on to get better even if you want to quit you can not. If you quit then you let them down too, not just yourself.

Most Memorable Training

I like to think this is where my interest in the military came from, yearning for a close knit community rather than an office job where you have little in common. I am very bummed out that I did not find the Sea Cadets earlier in life not only because it helped me with military bearing but with the opportunities it gives you. Since I joined so late in high school I have been in a rush to do as much as possible in a short amount of time. But what I have done was a lot of fun.

I attended the Sea Cadet Recruit Training at Marseilles Illinois. When I first got there I was not sad I could not use my phone or talk to friends, I tried to use it as a soft reset of myself trying to be the best I could. This admittedly was hard to do since I was recently concussed two months earlier suffering from headaches so that was a great start. Compounding that I never been away from home that long so homesickness kicked in. That is something I tell everyone, you can try to be the toughest man in the room until you are put in a situation where you feel alone from family.

Luckily there were great people there that helped me cope with that feeling. From homesickness, concussion, fatigue, and a recent family breakup the staff there were great people. I wish I could say thank you to them again. During the training itself it was so boring, 90% class work. There were times where I wanted to get PT just so we could get out of the classroom. Then came the swimming qualifications, after a week of boring class work. I would go back just to do the swim qualifications again. I can not describe to you how happy I was to set foot in that pool. It felt like heaven. Getting the expert swim quals was a walk in the park for me. It brought me back to all the memories of being on a swim team for 7 years and the friends that I had made and seen grow. After that point I was content with RT I never had any troubles after that.

My advice to anyone that goes to RT, do not focus on what makes you feel down, look for that one thing that makes you feel at home and try to focus on the memories you have with that object or activity. It helps so much with stress and anxiety.

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