Mid Sib and I returned our Mid to The Yard on a gray, misty President’s Day and, as has become my routine, I entered through Gate 8 and slowly snaked may way toward Bancroft. As we turned at Preble Hall toward the Chapel, I pointed and said, “that’s Gate 3, right?”
My Mid confirmed and I went on, “and that’s the gate you go through if you are asked to leave, right?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You don’t want to have to leave through that gate.”
Unfortunately, it looks like some Midshipmen will be leaving through Gate 3 soon.
Rumors of a drug investigation have been confirmed and after Wednesday started bright and early with a brigade-wide drug test, all that remains is to learn just how many Mids will be implicated.
It’s sad, heartbreaking, really. But it’s a powerful and painful reminder. These kids aren’t perfect. That seems obvious, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves.
All through the application process, we are reminded of the Naval Academy’s acceptance rate which, depending on your source, hovers around 5%. For my son’s class, more than 17,000 sought an appointment. A bit more than 1,100 entered The Yard on Induction Day. These young men and women are measured academically, physically and morally; they are measured by their leadership and their service to others. And even with all that, some that enter will not measure up.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time. From cheating scandals to sordid X-rated stories to LSD use, the Academy has had its share of dark moments. And while these sorts of things are hard to take at any school, they are particularly hard to take at a military academy, charged with grooming the future leaders of our military and our country. One of the reasons we are proud as parents to see our child aspire to an academy is that the institution stands for everything we hold dear and sacred in this country.
Despite our best efforts, we often put those that make it through the challenging appointment process up on a pedestal. As if these kids aren’t under enough pressure, we expect them to be the standard by which all are measured. An unfair expectation and one that most are destined not to meet. Not that anyone could meet that – or be expected to meet that.
It’s difficult to get into the Naval Academy. Once in, the combination of academic, moral, physical and military challenges within the Naval Academy make it difficult to get to the finish line and commission (USNA expects about 10% attrition from Induction Day to graduation). Then there’s the outside world. While the Brigade is largely cocooned from it, they are not completely removed. And that makes a pressurized situation that much more difficult.
Some Midshipmen succumbed to the pressure and a temptation. For that, they will pay a significant price. As they prepare to walk out through Gate 3, we will all ask ourselves, “what went wrong?” and be reminded that the young men and women that remain will continue on a difficult path.