Thursday November 8, 2012 | By:Felice E. Krycia-associate editor | News
Ryan Satanek, of Eden, takes some time to visit his parent’s store, Hess Florists in Hamburg, before he returned to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island. The academy was impacted by Hurricane Sandy and was still without power when he returned on Nov. 3.
Ryan Satanek of Eden has always been interested in the military.
“I started playing with toy soldiers when I was little and it just kind of went from there,” he said.
Today, Satanek stands tall in his dress uniform, a first-year student, commonly known as a “Plebe,” at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, on Kings Point, Long Island.
Satanek, 19, the son of Richard and Cynthia Satanek and a 2012 graduate from Eden Jr/Sr. High School, knew that after graduation he wanted to attend one of the military academies.
Not an easy goal. To attend a military academy one needs to be a U.S. citizen, be between the ages of 17 and 23, be unmarried with no dependents, have good moral character, take the ACT and SAT tests and earn solid scores and, probably the most difficult requirement, a nomination from their congressional representative.
“It takes a lot of essays and lots of letters to even get considered for an interview by either your U.S. Senator or Congressman,” Satanek said.
He was granted an interview with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, but in the end did not receive the nomination.
“That was hard,” he said.
The next interview was with U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins (District 27).
“I felt more confident this time and in the end Congressman Higgins nominated me for all the academies,” Satanek said.
Satanek had his sights trained on the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
“I was really interested in the Navy Seals and I really wanted to go the Naval Academy,” he said.
Part of the interest in the U.S. Navy stemmed from stories shared by his two grandfathers, who had served in the military.
“My dad’s father was a pilot who flew recognizance in the early 1950s and my mom’s father worked on a carrier,” he said.
The family also loves to be on the water, operating power boats out of Sturgeon Point, the Small Boat Harbor and the Thousand Islands.
“I’ve been boating all my life,” he said.
So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Satanek said he wanted to study naval architect and marine engineering. (Marine engineers and naval architects are involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of ships, boats, and their equipment.)
“My older brother, Michael, is a graduate from the University of Michigan, and is in this field already. He is now working in a shipyard out of Cleveland, Ohio and it is pretty amazing. I’ve know for years that this is what I want to do.”
But in early April Satanek received official notification that he was not accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I knew that less than 7 percent of those who apply get in, but I was really disappointed,” he said.
“At the same time I had sent my application to the Naval Academy, I sent out applications to the University of Michigan, University of Buffalo, Cornell University, as well as the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and the SUNY Maritime College,” Satanek said.
Several weeks after receiving the rejection letter from the Naval Academy, he received a letter he was hoping for, his acceptance to the Merchant Marine Academy.
“I was so excited when I got that letter,” he said. “Less than 10 percent of the applicants get in and it is an honor to be accepted.”
Five days after graduating from high school, Satanek had to report to the academy on July 5, to begin 20 days of indoctrination.
“It was very tough and there were a few times in those first couple of days that I wondered ‘What the heck did I do?’ but once I got through that it was OK.”
The school is set up in a trimester schedule, which includes not only academics, but sports/physical activities and military training.
“It’s exciting and challenging. You really have to learn how to balance your time to get everything done and done well,” Satanek said.
Proud parents Richard and Cynthia Satanek flank their son Ryan at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Kings Point on Long Island.
A typical day at the academy begins with 6 a.m. muster and breakfast; 6:30 a.m. is cleaning stations (for first year students); 7:30 a.m. is raise the colors; 7:45 a.m. to noon are classes; noon to 1 p.m. is lunch; 1 to 4 p.m. more classes; 4 to 8 p.m. is free time for homework and athletics/sports, as well as dinner being served between 5 to 7:30 p.m.; at 8 p.m. the company training officer reviews the day with the students and at 10 p.m. lights are out and everyone has to be in bed.
Satanek, who is majoring in engineering, was set to begin his next trimester on Nov. 6 and was scheduled to take the following courses: English, physics II, calculus II, an EMT class, self-defense, computer engineering, electrical engineering, along with the ongoing military training.
“It’s a rush, learning all this. The days are long, but the weeks just seem to fly by. I’m so glad to be here,” he said.
His family couldn’t be prouder.
“This is really an accomplishment and the whole family is really proud of him,” said his father, Richard Satanek, owner of Hess Florists in Hamburg.
Along with his parents, the Satanek family includes brothers, Michael, Christopher, John and Justin and sister, Shenise.
“It was great when they came down to see me off in my uniform,” Satanek said. “No matter where you are, family is really important.”
Satanek plans on coming home again soon, in time for Thanksgiving.
“I have a lot to be thankful for,” he said.