Brendan, Kerry and I flew to Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon. We had a nice dinner at The Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, and then headed back to our hotel for a good night's sleep. Brendan had to be there by 9:00 Wednesday morning. We had to park our rental car at the Navy football stadium and catch a shuttle to take us into the Naval Academy grounds. We actually got into the academy at about 8:15. The world as Brendan knows it then quickly changed.
When we arrived, it was amid a great mass of people. There were just under 1,200 new midshipmen being admitted, and parents and siblings were everywhere. The new plebes (as they call first-year students) were quickly separated from their parents. They were taken into Alumni Hall, where they were processed. They had their heads buzzed and were measured for their uniforms, which they received immediately. They were given some shots. They were later given their room assignments and additional equipment. This included "Reef Points," a book about Navy protocol which they must commit to memory. Throughout the day, they were forced to stand at attention, with the book poised in their left hand, and left arm extended at a 90-degree angle, to study the book.
After dropping him off, we did not see Brendan again until much later in the day. They had a very impressive swearing-in ceremony at 6:00, complete with a fly-by from Navy fighter jets. We got to hang out with Brendan when that was over--from 6:45 until 7:30, when the plebes were all ordered to be back in formation. It was very difficult to leave him there, alone in such a strange new world. It was unfortunate that it was also a brutally hot and humid day in Annapolis. All the while, Brendan was wearing his new spiffy but long-sleeved and rather heavy uniform.
It was, I believe, a kind of culture shock for Brendan. Plebe summer is actually run by the seniors at the Academy, all of whom will be naval officers next year. They are very, very tough on the plebes, and they strive to instill discipline in them right away. Basically, they humiliate them. During the day, we were able to watch a number of plebes being indoctrinated around the campus. Although we never caught sight of Brendan again until the swearing-in ceremony, we saw many others being chewed up and down in the most vocal and aggressive manner. I think that it will take Brendan a bit to get used to receiving such treatment. He knew to expect it, but I think that it may have been a shock for him to actually experience it.
I'm sure that, beginning the following day, they got on with the physical endurance aspect of the summer. He's been told that he'll have to run 4-5 miles a day, with many push-ups, sit-ups, etc.
It was definitely a strange and new experience. I trust that he'll get used to the routine, and that he'll be just fine. He knew that Plebe summer is not supposed to be any fun. We cannot speak with him again until July 8th. He supposed to be allowed a 5-minute telephone call sometime that day. I cannot wait for that call.
I find myself feeling extremely proud and concerned at the same time. Does this make sense?