Going into his junior year at Landstown High School, Brady Snyder knew it was going to be hard.
Everyone warned him junior year is the toughest.
After all, it is filled with upper level courses, bigger assignments, college applications.
It’s a lot to juggle.
Everything changed Jan. 8, 2014.
It began as a normal day at school. Brady was in class when he received a strange text from his older brother, then a senior at Landstown.
The text said to meet at his car after school.
“My brother ran track, and he never missed track, so I knew something was wrong,” Brady said.
Something was wrong.
Brady’s father was Lt. Sean Snyder, a pilot of the Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon. On that day, the Sea Dragon had crashed off the coast.
Sean was still missing at sea.
“At first, it was very unreal,” Brady described. “I kept thinking, ‘They’ll find him. It’ll be ok.’ After day two, that hope starts to dwindle.”
Five days after the crash, Sean Snyder’s remains were found in the Sea Dragon’s wreckage.
Brady was blindsided by the loss.
“It was very difficult,” he said. “We were a very close family…We hadn’t handled anything like this before. There were a lot of emotions that I did not know how to handle.”
Brady was out of school for most of January – and he credited the teachers and administrators at Landstown for their support and flexibility during his time away.
However, it was the Landstown staff that applauded Brady.
For when he returned to school, Brady came back with his same hardworking mentality as well as a greater compassion for his fellow students.
“I wasn’t going to allow my situation to affect the way I did in school,” Brady said. “My dad wouldn’t want it.”
Brady maintained his Governor’s STEM and Technology Academy workload and became something of a counseling resource for fellow classmates.
Self-described as “not a people person,” Brady said that having others reach out to him and his family made an important impact on him.
“I was very grateful for everyone who wanted to help us out,” Brady said. “A lot of people I didn’t even know cared were happy to see me back and I was ok….Over the course of months, I realized there were people (here at school) struggling as well. The least I could do was be there for them and help them out.”
It may have been something as simple as a conversation to a classmate who needed it, or an offer to talk if it was wanted, but Brady began leaving his own impact at Landstown.
“I have been most impressed at how he has focused his life on helping others as a result of the loss he experienced,” said Lisette Diehl, the academy coordinator at Landstown. “He is dedicated to ministering others in need and making a positive impact.”
It’s a legacy those around him say he’ll continue to make past graduation.
“Brady Snyder is a bright light, whose compassion for others permeates all he does,” said Dr. Brian Matney, Landstown’s principal. Matney added that Brady’s courage in dealing with his own sense of loss has inspired his classmates.
“Certainly, in the years to come, many others will be similarly enriched by knowing Brady Snyder.”
In the year and a half since losing his dad, Brady has committed to pushing himself in the classroom.
“If I wasn’t doing the best I could, I wasn’t doing what he wanted me to,” Brady said. “Staying on top of my grades was one of the ways I could honor him.”
Brady will graduate with honors next week, and then will head to Liberty University, where he hopes to study political science. From there, law school. Brady hopes to become a Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer for the Navy.
“I wanted to follow in that legacy in some way,” Brady said.
As his name is called and he crosses across the Convention Center stage during graduation, Brady admits he expects to feel the loss of his dad even more palpably then.
Yet, he knows he’s done his dad proud.
“It’s going to be difficult without him there…(but) I know he’s still proud of me and I know he’d approve of the work I’m putting in,” Brady said.
“It’s going to be a great day to celebrate.”
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