Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Memories-West Point

Abe and Calvin--"R" Day 2003
This is “R” day at West Point in 2003 and the look on Abe’s face says it all. Misery. Survival. Recognition or “R” day is the day all prospective cadets are initiated into the life of a military officer in training. In this picture we were waiting for busses to transport us to the auditorium where the prospective cadets were given their charge. Once in the auditorium, the commanding officer gave a briefing and told the prospective cadets they had 90 seconds to say their good-byes and be on the stage at the front of the auditorium. Abe hugged us and started down to the stage. Hundreds of other prospective cadets were hurrying there as well. As soon as they reached the stage the initiation began and the cadre began yelling instructions. They took the prospective cadets to the barber where their heads were shaved. They herded them through a medical line where they were given shots and then told to change into black shorts with white t-shirts and their dress black shoes with white socks. Those who needed corrective eye wear were issued prescription goggles. In short, the prospective cadets looked hideous . . . the intent. The breaking-down-so-that-they-could-be-built-back-up had begun.

R day was very emotional. Everywhere we turned people wanted to talk about their cadet and were hoping for a glimpse of their child. Parents were encouraged to stay on the grounds all afternoon so that they could see their sons and daughters take the oath in the late afternoon. And while the barracks and training grounds were roped off for several yards, every parent hoped for a glimpse of their child that afternoon. (However, seeing your child would have been bittersweet, the strict training was painful to see and hear and if you had caught a glimpse of your child it meant he had been singled out. So really, you hoped you didn’t see your child, and under my breath I cursed each shouting cadre and hoped they’d have a sore throat the next morning.) It was confusing and yet, it all made sense. As the parents waited the afternoon away on the grounds, they talked to whoever would listen about their cadet and the journey to get to West Point. One father told us over lunch about his boy and dabbed at his eyes with his napkin while he recounted his son’s accomplishments. A mother sat on the grass and talked for over an hour about her son’s activities. Everyone’s story was similar and everyone felt intensely proud of their cadet and also emotionally strained.

Abe and Calvin--Ring Weekend 2008

This is "Ring Weekend" at West Point on September 12, 2008 and the look on Abe's face says it all. Accomplishment. Confidence. He is a Firstie (senior) cadet now and we just returned from celebrating a wonderful weekend with him. I'll post about our trip for the next few days.

6 comments:

lelly said...

i love the juxtaposition of these two photos; these two moments in time. what a great weekend for you!

Jill said...

Wow, what an accomplishment!

Alisa said...

I love how you are able to tell today's story with a view into the past- Made me teary-
Congratulations mom! I am sure you are proud!

michelle said...

I'm with Lelly -- that second photo is so much more meaningful after having seen the first! What an emotionally trying experience, for the cadet and for the parents...

Barb said...

Tonight on the way home from practise I told Steven about Abe's football story you blogged a long time ago. I have to say, I didn't *get it* when you posted about football before, but now I totally do. It is so not about the glory, it is all about the character building. I think I can even understand military training now, as an extention of that. Congratulations to your firstie!

HeatherM said...

The contrast of those two pictures is both telling and amazing. I bet you are one proud mama - and rightfully so!