I’m humbled that a handful of USNA parents reach out to me every so often to talk about their Mids’ experience. One such exchange last year featured a Plebe parent whose son was having his share of challenges. The conversations eventually led to the Prayer for a Plebe. Those of you who’ve had that type of Plebe Year experience know exactly what that means.
I’d like to say I have some brilliant wisdom and insight that melts away the worries and stress of USNA parents but the truth of the matter is I mostly listen. After I spoke with this particular Plebe parent, it seemed like the Naval Academy was the right place but the weight of Plebe Year was casting that shadow of doubt so many experience, bringing on that “dark night of the soul.”
I shared the discussion I had with my son when he went through that part of his Plebe experience, that it’s important to discern what part of the experience is about being a Plebe, what part is about being at the Academy, and what part is about being in the Navy. My son gave it serious thought for a couple of weeks and came back to tell me that, in his opinion, 90% of it was about being a Plebe. I suggested that if that were the case with her son, things would steadily improve over the Spring semester and it would flip 180 degrees after Herndon.
Here is her report after classes ended: “The past two weeks have been so vastly different than the previous 11 months. Finals wrapped up. [He] came home for a few days. And then something happened. A switch flipped. And everything was different. In his words- he “decided to have fun” with Sea Trials. He said it was the most challenging physical experience ever. His body was bruised , beaten and nearly broken. Everything hurt. but mentally? He said that he was just fine. He had fun.” With the countdown to Herndon in single digits at that point.. I sent him the Spotify link to “Here comes the sun.”
And her Herndon experience was very similar to ours – anticipating that cover going on top as the finish line to a challenging year. It was and she expressed incredible relief when it was complete.
Things continue to get better. He had fun with Sea Trials, joined classmates on Herndon for the climb, and had a great summer experience.
Of course, he’s a Youngster now. Have things, indeed, gotten better? Well, I let her explain:
If I was writing a blog (which, let’s be clear, that’s not a skill of mine). But- if I was … I would title the next one “Oh- the difference that a year makes. “ or maybe “Karl was right! Everything gets better after plebe year”. and everything really is better.
Hearing that made me happy, but her last message made me smile, because as a father, it’s not something I hear very often.
Thank you Karl. You were right.
So for the Class of 2026 parents whose Plebes are having more struggles than you anticipated, hang in there. Don’t worry if your Facebook feed makes it look like every other Plebe is having a great time. They are not. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support – you’re not alone in this thing because those of us who have been through this journey are here to help.
In the meantime, I hope the Prayer For A Plebe provides some comfort.