“You Learn To Abide By It And Be Scared Of It”: The Sometimes Rocky Path To Honor At West Point

Ethan Wilson


Ethan Wilson came to West Point from Brunswick, Georgia. As a boy, he enjoyed hunting and fishing, and participated in competitive shooting. He came to West Point because he wanted to serve, and the leader development aspects of the Military Academy appealed to him. In the spring of 2020, he felt that he was improving academically after failing a course the previous semester. While on spring break, the COVID-19 Pandemic began, and he quarantined at home. After academics resumed, he struggled a bit because he had neither his textbooks nor computer. Additionally, all of his high school friends had also returned home, and academics took a back seat to other pursuits like hunting and fishing. Eventually, his TAC mailed his computer, and professors made materials available. Even so, Ethan struggled with MA 104, and although he requested AI, he felt that he did not get the quality instruction he needed over the computer. When the time came for the MA 104 Term End Exam, he felt unprepared, and he reached out to a few friends to help check his work during the exam. He knew he had cheated, but the possibility of failing a second class outweighed his concerns over cheating. Two weeks after submitting his exam, he received a mass email indicating that he was one of a group suspected of cheating, and offering 72 hours to “willfully admit.” Ethan admitted to cheating right away, but then did not hear anything for the next few months. In the meantime, he completed a summer detail, and returned to the academic year. Finally, in the fall he was admitted to the “Willful Admission Program” and SLDP-H (Special Leader Development Program for Honor). Once in the program, he developed goals and worked with a mentor to develop a deeper understanding of the honor code and how it applies not only at West Point, but also as a leader of character in the Army. In this interview, he describes his honor violation, and the steps he’s taken to learn from his mistake, including meeting with the Commandant and Superintendent, and interviewing an incoming brigade commander. Finally, he describes how the SLDP-H experience has made him a better, more reflective leader.


topics Honor West Point History Leadership Character
interviewer John Zdeb
date 21 April 2021


name Ethan Wilson
institution USMA
graduation year 2023