Stars and family stripes forever

Kent North, a junior in Engineering, walks on the Quad on Thursday, Nov. 2. North, a member of the professional service organization the Arnold Air Society, is applying to be an Air Force Pilot, which his dad was for 30 years. Because of this, he was cons Josh Birnbaum

Kent North, a junior in Engineering, walks on the Quad on Thursday, Nov. 2. North, a member of the professional service organization the Arnold Air Society, is applying to be an Air Force Pilot, which his dad was for 30 years. Because of this, he was cons Josh Birnbaum

By Erica Magda

Instead of remembering a typical, second grade afternoon of snacks and sports, Kent North only recollects his parents’ shocking announcement.

“We’re moving to Japan,” they told him.

“Where is that?” North asked when his parents sprung this news on him.

His dad has been in the Air Force for 30 years and is a general, which often kept the North family on the go.

Currently a junior in Engineering, he had already lived in Germany, Las Vegas, Korea, South Carolina and Virginia by the time he was seven, but Japan was the first big move he could remember.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

North spent much of his adolescent life moving around, and he learned to appreciate different cultures and the relationships he has built. He accepts change with open arms, and continues to do so even in his third year at the University. North understands the value of serving his country and he was recently contracted into the Air Force. He is also a member of the Arnold Air Society at the University.

On Fri., Dec. 1, the society is hosting a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Vigil Ceremony on the Quad side of the Illini Union at 7 a.m. Tens of thousands of names of soldiers will be read through the night, during which time, North and other ROTC and Arnold Air Society members will perform the changing of the guard ceremony every 15 minutes.

“I’ve seen the amount of dedication (my dad) put in the job … it’s a life,” he sad. “It brings light on the true aspect of how strong it is to have given that much … they gave it everything.”

Living on army bases worldwide has made building relationships the most important component of his life.

“It’s not about all the places I’ve been,” he said. “The most gratifying part of it has been the people I’ve met.”

He easily made friends through the base, as well as school groups like band and the sports he joined. Since North moved around so much in his childhood, he learned how to let his relationships go.

“I hate having to think of it as I’ll never see them again,” North said. So whenever he left a base or town, he always told people, “I’ll see ya later.”

And he has often upheld that promise. He returned to Virginia, where he had gone to school from fifth to eighth grade, for his last two years of high school. North said he was very excited to see his old friends, but they did not recognize him. He returned to the school in the middle of the day when students were hustling off to class, he recalled. Friends he knew since he was young rushed past him.

Finally, someone noticed him.

“He just screamed and came over and hugged me,” North said of his friend Nathan. “Once people started to realize they freaked out (and kept asking) ‘Are you here for good?'”

It was relatively easy for North to reconnect with his old buddies.

“It’s like nothing had changed. Those are the sort of people I’m best friends with,” he said.

Given North’s history of traveling and his ability to make friends, it was not a difficult choice for North to leave Virginia upon graduating to come to the University.

“Coming here as well was sort of a spur of the moment (decision),” he said.

North was joking online with a friend who had also been accepted, and they said, “Let’s go to U of I and be roommates.” Two hours later, they filled out the paperwork.

Even though North is a full-time student, he still manages to travel.

Over spring break, he visited nine colleges to see his old friends and went to Australia over the summer to visit a friend from Japan.

“It’s hard to tie me down to one place and tell me to stay,” he said. “I’d find a way to escape.”

Just last year, he made a decision that would constantly keep him on the go in the future. He decided to follow his father’s footsteps and be an Air Force pilot.

North had always been turned off to the idea because he had a “been there, done that” mentality about the military.

But once he seriously considered the option during his sophomore year, he thought it would be a good way to give back to his country.

“I fully embraced it and this is what I knew I wanted to do,” he said.

After returning from his field training he knew his dad was proud of his decision.

“It was more of a look in his eye,” North said. “It made me feel good about what I was doing.”

Now North is hoping to receive a pilot slot that would last 10 years with the Air Force, and is also involved in various activities with Arnold Air Society.

Jared Cartee, junior in Engineering and Arnold Air Society wing commander, said he thinks that North has potential to be a great pilot due to his unusual childhood.

“Traveling a lot (has) given him a unique perspective on being able to see how U.S. forces are perceived in other countries,” Cartee said.