NEWPORT — Patrick Fitzgerald Hennig, a Newport native and 2015 graduate of Newport High School, was promoted to second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps aboard the USS Constitution in Boston, Massachusetts on Dec. 28.
After graduating from Plymouth State University in 2019, Hennig was commissioned as a second lieutenant following completion of Small Unit Leadership Evaluation II training, which is among Hennig’s most satisfying accomplishments.
“I was a squad leader,” Hennig said in a phone interview with the Eagle Times Friday. “You’re marching 20 miles a day moving a lot of heavy stuff. But it was fun.”
For most of his life, Hennig knew that he wanted to be a Marine. It was as a child that he took a deep interest in the full spectrum of the military, down to medieval swords and shields.
“I have always been fascinated and wanted to join the military ever since I was a kid,” said Hennig, reflecting on his childhood influences. “From the time when I was a kid, I always enjoyed the picture books and atlases. There was one particular Civil War book I loved with atlases in it. I was always fascinated with military information. I come from a very patriotic community. I have always believed in the United States as a wonderful country.”
According to Hennig, some of his most memorable highlights of his training were both in his achievements and challenges.
“[One of those moments was] the first time I went to training, officers candidate school, [which] is based on selection, and if they think you can’t handle it they will drop you,” Hennig said.
The former Newport High School athlete can still recall his early experiences in the Marine Corps. In his interview with the Eagle Times, Hennig described some of his toughest challenges as beginning in the physical but that his achievements grew out of these exercises to strengthen him mentally.
“The first two weeks were very physical. It was very challenging. At one point I realized — in physical training — that it was all mental,” Hennig recalled. “When I realized this fact I realized I could expand my ability to wherever I wanted it to be. It was truly a watershed moment.”
Some of his most vivid memories of training, however, were more difficult to appreciate in the moment.
“There was this one exercise in particular, called a fartlek run. It was by far one of the toughest exercises I have ever experienced,” Hennig said. “It was a lot of body weight exercises and running,”
Hennig said he finds his parents to be his greatest source of motivation and what it means to be a good person.
“My mom has always been an inspiration and an example in the community. My dad was always giving me advice and wisdom on how to reach my full potential and what it takes to be effective in leadership.”
As a Boy Scout beginning at the age of 11, Eagle Scout at 15 and a member of The Knights of Columbus at 18, there were additional role models and mentors that shaped Hennig into the person he is today, including: Peter Merrit, scoutmaster; Chad Howe; head council chairman for Hennig’s unit; Leo Paquin, former sergeant in the Army, regional commander of the American Legion and currently state auditor; and Larry Cota, director of the Newport Historical Society.
“Becoming an Eagle Scout was one of my more proud moments. That was seven years of work,” he said.
His membership with the KOC is dovetailed with his very strong Catholic faith, which he said “is everything” to him.
Hennig felt honored for the recent commissioning, but credits all the people who have influenced him in his life.
“It’s feels humbling. It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a result of all the people who have helped me develop as a man,” said Hennig about his promotion.
Hennig’s extracurricular activities and hobbies include wrestling, football, skiing and reading the works of Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle for his models of life, leisure and philosophy.
Currently, Hennig is abroad in the Swiss Alps at a ski resort. The conditions and weather, according to Hennig, “are incredible” and that the views are “beautiful and amazing.”
In describing his life, the second lieutenant said it is straightforward, simple and focused on his greatest loves: faith, his country and his community.
“I believe hard work and leadership leads to virtue. I think that leisure expresses the person. It defines our characteristics,” said Hennig about his life, work and leisure. “It’s the ultimate expression of my faith to be in The Knights Of Columbus. The virtues of the organization are fraternity, unity and charity. I think those virtues are very great and good for the community.”