Love for the ocean and service define Melissa Brizzi ‘15

Brizzi family’s latest AFA grad now Coast Guard officer

The course seemed almost predestined.

Her father, uncle, and two cousins graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy. Her parents, uncles and grandfather served in various U.S. military branches. And her AFA teachers inspired her to success.

In the end, of course, it was Melissa Brizzi who was responsible for her own path: “The desired outcome was to become a commissioned officer in the armed services with zero college debt and a bachelor of science degree in marine environmental science.”

Today, she is a 2019 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, an ensign stationed in Jacksonville, FL, aboard the CGC Valiant (WMEC-6210). While serving as assistant navigator — Melissa also is assigned as, among other things, the marine protected species officer. That role echoes one of her favorite subjects at Farragut: science.

Melissa, AFA Class of 2015, fondly recalls teacher Sari Deitche’s science classes — both hands-on classroom work as well as studying in salt marshes, among mangroves, at the school’s waterfront. She took that passion for marine science to the Coast Guard Academy, where she also developed an interest in marine navigation.

She has earned her 100-ton Merchant Mariner credential and is working toward her Deck Watch Officer qualification, “to safely navigate and be in charge of the cutter while underway.”

While Melissa could have chosen any military branch (she’s wanted a military career from childhood), she was drawn to the Coast Guard’s unique focus.

“I liked the more humanitarian mission of search and rescue and law enforcement,” Melissa said. “To me, the Coast Guard seemed to do the mission every day while other branches trained for things that may or may not ever happen.”

Whether at Farragut or the Coast Guard Academy, Melissa balanced leadership with fun.

During high school, Melissa was a member of the battalion staff and led several teams: swimming, rifle, sailing, honor societies, and drill team. At the Coast Guard Academy, she led the varsity rifle team, aviation division, logistics department, and ballroom dance club.

While at the Coast Guard Academy, she also crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Dublin and London, completed RIMPAC 2018 (Rim of the Pacific), as well as sailed to Hawaii, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. Melissa also met the president.

L-R: Mom Brenda, Melissa, brother David, and dad Michael ‘85S

All of this followed time at Farragut, a school that launched other Brizzis before her, including Melissa’s uncle Robert Brizzi ‘79S, her father Michael Brizzi ‘85S, and cousins Robert Brizzi III ‘05 and Daniel Brizzi ‘06.

“My family has a long history with AFA,” she said, adding: “Farragut pointed me on the right path. . . It gave me the tools and I learned how to apply those tools, along with my motivation, to get to where I am today.” 

Besides Farragut teacher Sari Deitche, two others remain her mentors: English teacher Heather Ewing (from whom Melissa acquired a love for poetry and creative writing) and Spanish teacher Cesar Robalino (from whom she learned foreign language and “the art of sarcasm”).

“They saw what I could become and pushed and motivated me to get there,” Melissa said. “I will be eternally grateful for them and their efforts to help me.”