By Mike LaBella
---- — It was an experience Tatiana Wabrek will never forget.
Wabrek, 19, a military cadet from Bradford, marched in last month’s presidential inaugural parade.
She was among the 1,500 Virginia Military Institute cadets who strutted their stuff in the Jan. 21 event.
A 2011 graduate of Haverhill High School, Wabrek is sophomore at the military institute, where she is studying civil engineering, with a minor in Spanish.
“I hope to be a F18 fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps,” Wabrek said. “Along with going to a military school, I am on two NCAA division 1 athletic teams, swimming and water polo. But I injured my shoulder, so I am out for the season and am acting as team manager.”
The Corps of Cadets marched through the heart of Washington, D.C., from the U.S. Capitol Building to the reviewing stand at the White House. Wabrek and her fellow cadets were the final group in the parade and passed by President Obama in review.
“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Tatiana said. “It was quite a thrill to see the president in person, instead of on TV.”
It marked the 14th time that the VMI Corps of Cadets has marched in a presidential inaugural parade.
“It’s a tradition that we are very proud of,” said Wabrek, who grew up in a military household.
Her mother, Mary Wabrek, served in the Navy for 10 years and her father, Michael Wabrek, recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, after serving 26 years.
“Both of my parents went to Norwich University and my sister and my cousin are also currently attending Norwich, so a military school seemed more appealing to me,” she said.
Her parents and her two siblings — Katarina, 18, and Jakob, 15 — were all glued to their television set when Tatiana marched. She said her sister, Katarina, attends Norwich, a military school in Vermont, while her brother, Jakob, is a freshman at Haverhill High and is in the Jr. ROTC program.
VMI, with an enrollment of 1,600 cadets, is the nation’s oldest state-supported military college. U.S. News and World Report has ranked it among the top three publicly supported liberal arts colleges in the nation.