She was the monkey Aboo in Aladdin. She was the blind Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and the saucy Velma Kelly in Chicago. She was the preacher’s daughter Rusty in Footloose and Mozart’s wife Costanza in Amadeus.
She never wears a matching pair of socks and admits to occasionally blowing up her food in the microwave.
She is also a young lady who has accepted an appointment from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
So, why has this free-spirited drama diva with such a deep theatrical background decided to become a part of the strict regimen of an academy?
“I need some structure,” explained Saxon Londagin, who will become a lowly plebe at King’s Point on Long Island, beginning July 5. “I’ve got my orders already.”
“Attending an academy is a prestigious opportunity that will present you with a fist rate education and help develop you into a leader of this great nation,” wrote McMorris Rodgers. “Due to the outstanding leadership, scholarship, and athletic abilities you display, I am honored to inform you that you have been selected to receive my principal nomination to the Merchant Marine Academy.”
And what connection does a girl from the interior mountains and valleys of Eastern Washington have with the sea?
“It runs in the family,” said Saxon. “My dad is a sea captain with American President Lines. He is the captain of a container ship, the Korea, and his home port is Los Angeles, California. He travels back and forth across the Pacific Ocean to China, Japan, and throughout the Far East. He helped with the evacuation of Japan following the tsunami. His was the first ship to come back to the states.
“My mom was involved in shipping for 12 years, and she sailed for five years. My older brother Kyle is currently a bow swain’s mate on a ship out of New Orleans, and he hopes to become a captain someday.”
Thus, Saxon is simply following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother.
“We’re all salty,” grinned Saxon’s mother Lori, who started out as a hoofer, a tap dancer on Broadway. “We all have sea water in our blood. Now, the world is Saxon’s oyster, and she has to get out and see it.”
Later in her life, after spending her time at sea, Lori came ashore to raise a family. That is why the Londagins moved to Chewelah.
Attending the Merchant Marine Academy will not be Saxon’s introduction to military life. After graduation from Jenkins High School last spring, she accepted a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship to attend the State University of New York Maritime College.
“What I really wanted is to attend the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis,” said Saxon, “but I couldn’t pass the physical. I had two tooth implants, and they were not completely healed, and they would not give me a medical waiver.”
At the Maritime College, Saxon had to make an abrupt change in her lifestyle.
“It knocked me off my feet,” she said. I was not prepared to wear a uniform every day and to be yelled at all the time. My mom had warned me about it, but I didn’t listen.
“It was really rough. I had to wake up at 4:56 every morning and I didn’t get to bed until after 11:00 every night, so I got less than five hours of sleep on weekdays. We had to clean every night before we went to bed—the halls, the walls, the decks, the ceilings, and our rooms. Then, everything was inspected by an upperclassman. It was awful. They were really mean, but I liked it there. Now, it’s going to get even worse at the Academy.
“I took 21 credits of class work. I had physical training on Tuesdays and Thursdays as a part of the ROTC program. I spent Mondays and Fridays with the regiment. We also got to do the Marine Corps obstacle course, and I still have a scar from a rope burn I got on that course. But I had the advantage over the city girls in the regiment when it came to getting dirty. We were always dirty in the Ship Maintenance Class, and we were always getting cut up.
“It was so intense, but it was also so much fun. I got to do so many new and different things. It was an adventure.”
Saxon took classes that included Naval Science, Chemistry, Calculus, Navigation, Safety for Mariners, Leadership, Ship Maintenance, and English.
“Two of my favorite classes were Firefighting and Underwater Explosives,” said Saxon. “They would light different parts of a ship on fire, and we would have to safely put it out. We had to do a lot of swimming in the explosives class.”
Through all of this military structure, Saxon was still able to keep some of her individualism.
“We had to wear black socks with our long pants,” she said. “I always wore one long sock and one short sock.”
The Maritime College is a four-year program. Upon successfully completing the program, the graduate can select either a commission in the Navy, the Coast Guard, or the Marines.
“We never got yelled at by the seniors,” Saxon said. “They were too busy studying for their Coast Guard licensing. If they pass the test, they can graduate with a third mate’s license. It was the middle two classes that did all the yelling at us.”
At the Maritime College, the freshmen were divided into six sections, each with 30 cadets.
“I was in section four with all the girls,” said Saxon. “Each section had its own deck. Less than 20 of the girls in our section finished their freshman year. The others dropped out. They did not handle the pressure or the lifestyle, or they did not like to wear the uniform.
“I was happy at the Maritime College, so I decided not to reapply to the Naval Academy. Besides, I could earn a Navy commission and a maritime license at the Maritime College, but not at Annapolis.”
Saxon did get most weekends off, just like at any other college or university. She used some of that time to go to an occasional Broadway show. She still has an aspiration to be on stage.
“I had also applied at the New York University School of the Arts and did an audition there in March,” said Saxon. “They had me do two contrasting monologues, one comic and one tragic. I also had an interview. Even though I have an appointment to the Maritime Academy, it will be interesting to see if I am accepted at NYC.”
Saxon also was a member of the cross-country team.
“Since we could only leave campus on weekends, it was nice to be able to leave during the week with the team,” Saxon said. “I was even named Rookie of the Week once.”
For now, Saxon is happy to be home, but July 5 looms on the horizon and her life is about to change again.
“After a year at the Maritime College, I know a lot more than the kids coming right out of high school,” Saxon said. “I know what I want to do with my life. I’m interested in both the Navy and the Merchant Marine. I want to first serve in the Navy and then I want to sail like my dad does. And, I still want to act.”
Those are big plans for a girl who is only one year out of high school, but those who know Saxon also know that she tends to accomplish whatever she plans.
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Saxon Londagin graduated from Jenkins High School in 2011