My ring story: Don’t tell me I can’t do it

This is a group of people who have become family to me. This picture was taken after our first SMI. First Row Left to Right Alfred Gregg, Desmond Lewis, Ruby Bolden, Myself, Dennis Hathorn, Jacob True, Kienen Holmes. Second Row Olivia Hime

Zachary Joseph Henriquez, Staten Island, New York, ’21

Photo above: “This is a group of people who have become family to me. This picture was taken after our first SMI this semester.” Left to Right: Alfred Gregg, Desmond Lewis, Ruby Bolden, me, Dennis Hathorn, Jacob True, Kienen Holmes. Front: Olivia Hime.

Who or what inspired you to attend The Citadel?

It was not a “who” that inspired me to attend The Citadel but, a “what.” When people back home heard that I was thinking about going to a military college they kept telling me that I wasn’t going to make it, and I think that that was one of the biggest driving factors. I feel when someone tells me that I can’t do something or can’t make it through something, then I have to prove them wrong. I show them just how strong I am.

What was the most difficult obstacle you conquered that made you feel you earned the honor of wearing the ring?

I’m originally from Staten Island, New York, so that is 745 miles away from the front gates of The Citadel. Being so far from home and out of my comfort zone was only made worse by that fact that I was 10 hours and 47 minutes away from my family and if anything happened, I would not be able to get there in time.

A few months before I graduated high school my uncle was diagnosed with liver cancer. We were very very close. After I matriculated, there was one thought always on my mind: will I get to say goodbye to him? We knobs made it to Thanksgiving and I was able to go home. I was extremely happy to spend the holiday with him. He passed away during winter furlough and being away from family after losing a close family member was the toughest thing ever and sometimes, I thought I wouldn’t make it through, but I did. Knowing that I made it through what was probably one of the most difficult things in my life, and stayed on track, makes me confident I earned the honor of wearing the ring.

In what ways has this institution impacted your life?

I have met people who have become great friends, mentors, and family. I would probably never change this experience for anything. I have learned so much in these past years that I would never learn elsewhere.

What is inscribed on the inside of your ring and what is the significance?

On the inside of my ring it says “And still, I rise, ” a quote from poet and philosopher Maya Angelou. I chose this quote because one thing that I have held onto is no matter what you face, it’s not the end. After losing my uncle to liver cancer my freshman year, I found in my junior year that my aunt had breast cancer. I thought it was the end of the world. I was lucky enough to have my closest friends to lean on. I went from thinking it was the end of the world to knowing that no matter what comes my way, it will not stop me.

When you put your ring on your finger, what will you be thinking about being a cadet?

Of course, I will remember all the stuff from knob year, but I will never forget the people here. They are what make everything worth it. I think one of the scariest parts about this year is knowing that soon, I won’t be able to see some of these people everyday who have become like family.

What is a song that describes your emotions leading up to Ring Day?

“Started from the bottom” by Drake. We all started this as knobs, at the very bottom of the totem pole, and now we are the seniors that run the Corps.

You are connected to Alumni, not only through your Citadel Experience but through the wearing of the ring. How does that make you feel?

Knowing that I’m connected to the people that came before me is amazing. Knowing that I will now wear the same ring, alongside the people that I looked up to before, makes me even more proud of this accomplishment.

Why do you think it is important that cadets and/or people in general understand the symbolism and weight that the ring holds?

It is important for cadets to understand the elements in the ring that we wear. It symbolizes a bond. We have all been molded, bent and shaped to be the men and women we now are. The weight of the ring is like the weight of the standards the school has set; we must carry them everywhere we go.

Henriquez is a Health and Exercise Science major.

Note: This is the first in a series stories intended to show the different journeys members of The Citadel Class of 2021 have undertaken to earn their bands of gold. The Regimental Public Affairs team, Cadet Ruby Bolden, public affairs officer, and Cadet Samantha Walton, public affairs NCO sent a list of questions to participating cadets. These are the resulting stories.

This is me as a knob during my first week, with Marcus Milhouse who graduated in 2019. He was my cadre squad leader and my mentor.