The dichotomy of life at USNA continues to amaze me.
By the time the sun sets on Sunday, July 8, the Plebes of the class of 2022 (and their respective families) will have completed the initial set of hurdles. They went through the shock of Induction Day on June 28 to kick off Plebe Summer. The Plebes got introduced to Academy life like drinking from a fire hose, memorizing a seemingly endless amount of information (“Reef Points” is their new best/worst friend) and moving quickly from marching to running to obstacle courses to formation to meals in a tireless (but tiring) cycle.
The Plebes also got their first two “breaks” from Plebe Summer life in the form of the July 4th fireworks and their first Sunday, where they could attend religious services – allowing them to not only get out from the piercing gaze of the detailers, but also enjoy some donuts.
And for the families, they’ve learned (or are learning) the art of Waldo Hunting – poring over the numerous sources of photos to locate their Plebe. The mid-Atlantic’s soupy summer has led to some Black Flag days, which means most activities occur indoors, limiting photos, but the hunt goes on.
Finally, the “radio silence” has been broken. Families are starting to receive notes from Plebes (they are directed to write home in the first week) and earlier today, the Plebes had their first of three phone calls for the summer.
I remember this stretch well. Frankly, it was about the most stress I’ve ever endured as a parent.
Meanwhile, two years removed from Plebe Summer, I not only have my Mid home for a good long stretch, I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of his classmates in summer training, especially ProTriMid, the required summer training for Second Class Mids, where they spend a week in each of the four major warfare communities – Marines, Aviation, Subs and Surface.
Sometimes, it feels like Plebe Summer was just a bad dream (for our family, therapy was sending lots of mail and care packages) – these days my Mid and I chat at the kitchen table, make progress on our Madden franchise (year 28 almost in the books!) and he heads to the gym regularly as he prepares for the upcoming Sprint Football season. He’s also spent time camping in the Adirondacks (he LOVES the outdoors) and invested a lot of time restoring an old Fender Precision Bass. It’s almost normal.
That Plebe Year shock to the system was jarring, but necessary. We’re in the groove now, but watching the Class of 2022 parents work through it from a distance, I’m reminded of how challenging it was.
Plebe Summer is far from over, though. There’s still the changing of the Detailers at the midpoint, two more phone calls and, for the Plebes, countless miles of running, sailing up the Severn, shooting qualifications, academic tests, formations, chow calls, that exciting Bowie Baysox game, etc. It’s all leading up to Plebe Parents Weekend – the Plebe Summer finish line.
That’s all just part of the USNA cycle, of course. Because as Plebe Summer ends, the Brigade reforms and there’s Hell(o) Night and, well, if there’s one lesson I learned during the Mid’s Plebe Year, it was take it one step at a time.
I did a podcast with my son after his Plebe Year and it was a great conversation. IMPORTANT: I made an egregious error in the podcast, saying it was 9 weeks long. It’s not. It’s six. Proof that if Ernest Hemingway and Edward R. Murrow needed an editor, I probably do, too!