Written by Edwina Bien-Aime Thursday, 08 August 2013 00:00
W.T. Clarke alumnus Tony Besong is a long way from home as he serves as a Navy Corpsman in Guam. But then again, for him, home has had a lot of different zip codes.
A Cameroon native, Besong moved to Westbury in 2001 to live with his father. He was just 14 years old, and life at Clarke High School was vastly different than the Christian boarding school in Cameroon that he was accustomed to.
“I imagined the school life [in Westbury] to be somewhat similar to the boarding school I attended,” Besong said. “One of the main differences is that the boarding schools are run like a military boot camp.”
Besong encountered several culture shocks, including being in a school that wasn’t split by gender, learning new phrases, and adjusting his idea of “football.” He fondly recalls the gym class where he found out the difference between football and soccer.
“I was so excited that I finally found something I could relate to. I ran outside to the field looking sharp in my shin-guard and cleats,” Besong says. “When the game began, I realized that maybe football was not the sport I thought it was.”
It was a lesson learned the hard way. The young Besong was quickly tackled after catching the ball and that was the end of his “football” career.
He graduated from Clarke in 2005 and then moved to Florida with his father. After attending a community college for two years, he transferred to the University of Florida and experienced living on his own for the first time.
“For someone who had yet to live with such leisure, it spelled failure,” Besong said. “I spent so much of my time playing soccer [that] as a result, I failed two of my courses, which in turn dropped my GPA.”
Even after retaking the courses and passing, Besong still sought a new start. His father proposed the military.
At the time, two relatives had joined two different branches of the military. “I thought ‘why have two Besongs in the same service?’ so I joined the Navy,” Besong said.
That decision turned out to be one of the best he ever made. Besong is currently serving as a Navy Corpsman at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam. As a laboratory technician, B
Besong’s responsibilities include running tests on human body fluids. The tests he does can be “as simple as a glucose test or hemoglobin test, to something more complex like cardiac panels or metabolic panels,” Besong said. He also acts as the department’s customer relations representative.
"This hospital (is) very special to me not (only) because it is my first duty station, but mainly because it has taught me the meaning of service with honor and what teamwork really means,” Besong said. He plans to finish his term at Guam and make his career in the Navy.