So the Mids are on Spring Break and that’s usually associated with fun, sun, and not having a care in the world, we recently received a stark reminder that bad news lurks just about everywhere.
Last week came news that five West Point cadets had overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl, leading to one arrest. The details are still coming into focus, but the details hardly seem to matter. The only saving grace is that none of the overdoses appear to have been fatal.
College students on Spring Break party too hard and in some ways, that’s what people expect. But these were West Point cadets. The best of the best. Living by the cadet honor code.
Truth be told, though, they are only human. And humans make mistakes.
During my son’s time in Annapolis, a drug scandal rocked the Academy. A reminder that temptation lurks everywhere, preying on the vulnerable and the strong.
When these sorts of events happen, I will inevitably hear from people who want to use the incidents to degrade military academies as a whole. After all, they reason, the application process is so grueling, how can they possibly let someone through who is capable of these sorts of things?
Here’s the thing, I don’t know the details about the cadets who overdosed or the Midshipman who pled guilty on drug charges. That being said, I’d be willing to bet a shiny nickel that none of them had a history of heavy drug use. Do I think they are all perfect? No. But I have a hard time believing anyone neck-deep into drugs could navigate the intense scrutiny of the application process. I am more likely to believe that it was a gradual slide down a slippery slope that led to their collective demise.
I’m all for letting our kids FIO, but that doesn’t mean I won’t offer gentle reminders where appropriate. When my recently graduated ensign used his basket leave for a one-man adventure out West, I walked him through a couple of “keep your eye out for …” items. I honestly don’t think he needed the reminders, but it felt like the right thing to do.
We were lucky. Aside from a couple of days during an ill-fated attempt at camping in a blizzard Plebe Year, our Mid spent his Spring Breaks at home.
We’ve seen a Mid die while running during the PRT. We’ve seen a Mid die just sitting at his desk. We’ve seen a Mid die just holding his breath in a pool on leave. I don’t know that there’s any warning we can offer that provides blanket coverage but as parents, I often reflect on a scene from the movie Parenthood. Jason Robards looks at Steve Martin as they are discussing the misfit younger brother.
As for parenthood, Robards says, “there is no endzone. You never get to cross the goal line.”
In my experience, it’s clear that some people think once your kid enters the Naval Academy, it’s all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a perception that it’s one big celebration, that these chosen few are beyond reproach. Those of us on the inside know better. We know that to whom much is given, much is expected. We also know that while they are learning the ins and outs of military leadership, they are still capable of mistakes, both big and small.
As the Mids go their separate ways for Spring Break, I’m hopeful that no news will be good news and that if any good can come from the incident with the West Point cadets, it’s that danger can present itself even when you’re just trying to have a good time.
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