Main Street News

Veteran Profile: Meghan Bornes

By Published On: November 25th, 2023

In honor of Veteran’s Day on November 11, we are profiling veterans from around the area all month long to honor their service. This installment features Meghan Bornes, a recent graduate of Norwich University who is about to start her service in Washington. 

Meghan Bornes is a recent graduate of Norwich University in Vermont and a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) for the U.S. Navy. Meghan, who graduated in May with her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and attended Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School, is about to start her service aboard the U.S.S. John S. McCain at Naval Station Everett in Washington. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I’m ready to finally hit the fleet and go do my job.” 

The Norwich experience

Rather than enlisting, Meghan chose to attend Norwich University because she knew she wanted to get her degree and later, be able to have more control over the direction of her career. 

“When you’re enlisted, you don’t really have much of a say in your career until you’re far down the line,” she explained. “You know me, I like to be in the driver’s seat and in full control, and this was the best way to keep myself in the driver’s seat.”

Ultimately, Meghan’s goals are to serve in the Navy for as long as she’d like to, then attend medical school later on to become a physician’s assistant in a naval hospital. 

“I don’t want to just do my five years and then get out. I want to stay and serve in some capacity for as long as I can.” 

Like many other students attending college in the past few years, Meghan felt like she wasn’t able to get the complete Norwich experience due to the pandemic. “I remember when I first got there, I had a complete meltdown like ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this,’” she laughed. “We started off basically at the bottom of the barrel and they teach you a lot about Norwich’s history, how to be a cadet, and then after you make it through that, you’re officially a member of the Corp of Cadets.” 

Much of her experience at Norwich was typical of college. She went to class, studied hard, and spent time with her friends. But she also had mandatory training times every week and leadership opportunities, especially as she advanced through her education. 

“Norwich’s goal is to get you to understand how to be a member of a military society in freshman year, learn the ins and outs in sophomore year, and then in junior and senior year, you actually get to take the reins and do it,” she explained. 

In Meghan’s senior year, she worked with a cadet training company to plan and run different training courses. A natural born leader, it was one of the highlights of Meg’s college experience. “It was pretty awesome,” she smiled. 

Why the Navy? 

“I always said I wanted to fly planes for the Navy,” she said. “I remember being in the sixth grade and telling my dad that was my goal, and it just never changed.” 

Meghan explained that before they got their service assignments, they were able to write down their top three choices for consideration. Her first, naturally, was to be a pilot; her second was flight officer; and her third was the assignment she ended up receiving, Surface Warfare Officer. 

“I was really sad about it when I got my assignment. After I was done feeling sorry for myself that my little girl dream got stomped on, I realized that there’s a lot of really awesome opportunities as an SWO,” she shared. “At the end of the day, I had to realize that I didn’t sign on to do what Meghan Bornes wanted to do, I signed on to do what the U.S. Navy wants and needs me to do.” 

The placement has been a silver lining in more ways than one. If Meg had been placed as a pilot or flight officer, she wouldn’t have been stationed in the same area as her now-husband. 

Her husband, Joe, is a field artillery officer who is currently training in Oklahoma. Luckily, they’ll soon be stationed in Washington together. She’ll be stationed at Naval Station Everett and he’ll be at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 

“Ultimately, I’m thankful for the way it worked out. I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that flying just wasn’t in the cards for me, and that’s okay.” 

Summer training and gearing up to serve 

Meghan has been in San Diego since the summer participating in training. She just completed a Basic Division Officer Course which she described as a “crash course to the Navy.” She learned basic seamanship and handling of the ship. Now, she’s completing the officer of the deck course, which is the second phase of SWO training. 

“They’re teaching us how to manage the bridge and how to do what you need to do, but ensure that you’re doing it safely,” she said. “It’s a lot of simulated situations, rules of the road, and the Coast Guard published the laws on how to navigate the ocean. This is more hands-on and basically what we’ll be doing as our jobs.” 

Meghan’s ship has a significant amount of history behind it. The U.S.S. John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the Alnic MC off the coast of Malaysia and Singapore. As a result of the collision, ten sailors from the McCain died.

“Every day, I walk into the building and there are the portraits of every sailor that died on the McCain. That’s a very surreal thing to look at, knowing that those sailors were on my ship, and I’m headed there to do the exact same things that they were doing when that collision happened,” she said. “The reality and severity of that is very real and it’s very heavy.”

On a destroyer, like the one Meghan will be on, the total number of crew members totals around 300. “Every time you do something on that ship, it’s on you to make sure that everyone else can lay their head in the rack at night and wake up the next morning. It’s made me really look at things in a different light. This is my job, I’m going to be good at it, and I’m going to do what I need to do to get things done and keep people safe while I do it.”

If there’s anything Meg wishes people understood about military service, it’s the sacrifice that people make when they’re serving. 

“People don’t realize what it’s like to be away from your loved ones for that long,” she said. “Obviously my husband and I don’t have children yet, and aren’t going to for some time, but I think about how much I hate leaving Joe, so what’s it going to be like when I have to leave my husband and my kids? It’s just one of those things where you don’t get it unless it’s you.” 

To learn more about the U.S. Navy, visit their website. To learn more about Norwich University, visit their website.