Plebe Parent Weekend

Plebe Parent Weekend Memories
October 10 - 13, 2003

I never saw one kid put away so much food at one sitting in my life--every time we saw him eat! And he never complained once about anything served. Can we go back in time a few years and put him at our dinner table at home?

What an experience! After being at West Point for Marchback and for Acceptance Day and experiencing the emotions of those events and seeing our cadet for the first time in 6 weeks, it was hard to believe that PPW could have exceeded those events for emotion and pride. But it did. To paraphrase a famous chef, “West Point kicked it up a notch this weekend!”

What these 1200+ cadets have accomplished in the 102 days leading up to PPW is nothing short of amazing. While none of us doubted that they were quite capable of these accomplishments, the conditions under which they have performed for the first time in most of their lives was an unknown factor. It is hard to stop being a parent and let them go in 90 seconds. But this weekend was the best, the reward for letting them go to start down their own paths. This is not to say that they think it is easy by any stretch of the imagination. It is hard in so many ways. While ”happy” might be a stretch, there is a pride in what they have achieved so far that gives them a certain aura.

One of the best parts of the weekend for me was meeting other parents from all over. All of a sudden, the scheduled events became less important than just meeting people and being with my cadet. Watching the upperclassmen evacuate the post as fast as they could was even fun. Our cadet took great pleasure in introducing his fellow cadets and some of his cadre to us and in having us watch his lunch formation from the diagonal. He was the first in formation and got special attention from his cadre who waved at us after he pointed us out to them. I waved back and was later told that was special because no one ever waves back at them.

We met a few of his professors on Saturday and were most impressed with them and the facilities. Our cadet had already expressed how easy it was to talk with them and ask them questions outside of class. For them to take their time for this and to prepare the presentations that they did was a great gift to the parents. We were able to meet our Cadet's sponsor and his wife at their home. Our cadet is very lucky to have them and we look forward to keeping in touch with them.

And then the parade. What can you say? Awesome. Perfect. Emotional. Even though they were not there, I hope the upperclassmen could feel the pride we all had in our cadets as they marched and formed as the upperclassmen have taught them. It was indeed special.

No description of the banquet would ever do it justice. Suffice to say that the cadets, the West Point leadership and the mess hall staff can take great pride in this event. The food, the conversation and the camaraderie were fantastic. (And we managed to get our glasses home without breaking them, thanks to all the tips on plebe-net.) The Hop was more receiving line than anything else but it was another great opportunity to meet people. We all laughed when a Major in front of us took the souvenir glasses that his wife had been holding and tucked them into the back of the cummerbund of his dress blues. The tops of the glasses were hanging down below his jacket. I am sure that everyone was as tired as we were at the end of the evening.
Walking our cadet back to the barracks under the autumn stars and the beauty of West Point was even special. What a great night!

My wife and I are finding it harder and harder to leave West Point after every visit. Because we love our cadet, yes, but also because it is such a wonderful and marvelous place with so many terrific and dedicated people managing it. Thanks to our cadet and our 1200 other adopted cadets for a great weekend.

PS: On your next visit, go to the Cadet Chapel at night to catch the view.

The parade "review" was one of my favorite experiences. Even though I had seen it before I had not seen them in their dress uniforms. I couldn't believe the difference between the way they marched on R day and the parade a few days ago!!! Each cadet stood a little taller and with more confidence. The manners that the cadets showed were extremely impressive.

My husband and I enjoyed meeting other cadets and their parents. I did go to a class with my cadet and saw how the Thayer method was taught. I was impressed how the professor brought each student into the
conversation and pulled ideas out of their heads. He really made them think. No time for daydreaming in the slightest.

It was nice to have lunch in the mess hall and sit under the beautiful mural. And the banquet was very enjoyable. I especially loved our toast to President Bush. Such respect for our commander in chief!
The glasses will always bring such wonderful memories of a special weekend.

Since we won't be able to go to their barracks until their firstie year of course that was very special. My son's room showed what they are expected to do for a SAMI inspection. While the items in the drawers were perfectly positioned they were also almost empty! Such a change from their bedrooms at home. I could tell how pleased they were to show us where they lived.

Now to the uniform factory!!!!! I know this is making a lot of parents cringe!!! While the tour was very interesting the line for the jackets was, to say the least , LONG! It was our first thing on our list for the weekend and when we finished it hours later I felt I had been though the mill! But we have our jackets and will wear them with pride.

We went to the cadet chapel for the protestant service Sunday morning which was beautiful. The choir of cadets were impressive. The sermon was inspiring and given by the chaplain who is a West Point grad. The brunch at the Thayer was very lovely. It was interesting to hear the waitress tell us that the hotel was extremely busy because Neil Diamond's daughter had her wedding on Saturday and they were all staying
and having parties at the Thayer. A very busy weekend for them!

It was great having our cadet show us around West Point, his home for four years. An exhausting but wonderful weekend!

On Sunday we drove down to the Palisades Mall to catch a movie. Once we loaded our arms with buttered popcorn, we settled in to watch the "Coming Attractions". Our Plebe was mentally making her list of movies to see over the Winter Break. At the end of the previews, one of the Marine Corps ads ran - you've probably seen it on TV...the marine climbing the shear rock face with his bare hands, only to be pulled up to the top at the end by a fellow Marine. As the ad ended, there was a moment of silence before the feature movie began. In that brief moment, just as the dramatic Marine Corps music ended, our Plebe yelled out into the quiet theater, "BEAT NAVY!"
It was awesome!

We went to New York City on Sunday to see a few sights. As we were entering the Empire State Building, a security guard approached us and shook my cadet's hand, asking if we were planning to ride to the top of the building. We replied that we were, and he asked us to follow him. Not only did he admit 4 of us at no charge, he *personally* escorted us up a *private* elevator, all the way to the top (bypassing about an hour-long line)! He spoke of his brother, who is a Westpoint grad, and said that he respects so much what our kids are doing/have done/will do.

Several other folks in the city approached my son and shook his hand, as well. Talk about a proud parent....I think I stood several feet taller all weekend!

I loved everything about the weekend, and the weather could not have been more perfect. We actually got very lucky, and made our way through most lines very quickly (including the receiving line!). Doesn't seem like we actually made any "tours", rather we made our own! I did get the coveted parka, however, about 5 minutes before they closed up!

Favorite moment was dancing with my cadet! Saddest moment was, of course, saying goodbye (do we ever stop crying at the goodbyes)? Also loved meeting many of my cadet's friends and many, many wonderful Westpoint parents. And, having seen the barracks and classrooms, I can finally visualize him in his surroundings...I think I'll rest easier now somehow!

Onward to Thanksgiving.... :)

We too had a great experience with our Cadet. We went to NYC on Sunday. We visited the World Trade Center site. The security guard sought our cadet out and invited him and us out onto the now closed Observation Deck (because he is Army!). We were very lucky. When out there, you felt a sudden impulse to pray. It was so profound. He was also called to by people on the street, shook hands a lot, and got discounts on things!! It made us very proud. I think it made my cadet especially proud, which to me was very important.
It was wonderful to see so many parents too, of course!!

Highlights for me were:

Seeing our son interact with his classmates - they truly have bonded and count each other as close friends. A VERY impressive bunch of young people.

The Plebe Parade - even though our son is on medical profile and could neither march nor sit with us, it was inspiring and moving

The Barracks visit - especially our plebe fashion show in which our son modeled (unfortunately) White over Gray. I had hoped we would be there for the change to winter uniforms - I have yet to see him in that tradition Dress Gray. Oh well, Christmas maybe?

Dinner in Cold Spring - we had a lovely evening in a restaurant right on the Hudson river front with West Point lights twinkling at us from across the river on a simply gorgeous Sunday evening.

Nininger Hall and the Division 1 room display - very interesting and informative

Academic Open House - meeting the faculty gave me a real boost. These young officers were, to a person, articulate, impressive, approachable and, most important, clearly dedicated to our students' success.

My cadet was fine. He seemed to have made many friends, and he is doing well academically and in debate, which is his principal extracurricular. We had gotten such lonely emails from him that we were prepared to find something very different than we found. It's nice to get good news!

It made me think about how complex cadets' lives are. Ordinary college students lead more complex lives than people realize, but they are insulated from real adulthood. Ordinary students dabble and experiment with adult things--responsibilities as well as drinking, etc.--but they aren't usually financially responsible for themselves. That relationship maintains students in a kind of cocoon where they aren't truly on their own, and schools by and large understand that.

Our cadets are not insulated at all. Cadets are expected to be adults in ways that other students are not. They are expected to meet exacting standards in all facets of their lives, and we parents are at best peripheral to the picture.

Ordinary students also struggle with their futures; the uncertainty of not knowing what they will be, where they will go, or what they will do often weighs heavily on them. Our cadets are spared that, but in exchange they face the prospect of working in a hostile environment and maybe a war zone. Less uncertainty, but maybe more soul searching. The pressures on them are great.

I'm glad that we had the opportunity to visit West Point. I'm only sorry that this experience comes only once.

My husband and I cannot express the emotions we felt over the weekend. After having gone to West Point for A-Day; leaving our other two children a few weeks later for PPW was extremely stressful. Not to mention that due to my husband's work responsibilities, we didn't know if he could make it until the last minute. Can't say enough of how unexcited we were.

That is until we arrived!

To meet the instructors, to see the facilities, and to meet all of the parents was wonderful beyond words. We were speechless the entire weekend. Our biggest prize though was meeting the other cadets. The chance to see them in action, to see how they live day to day and to see our son interact with everyone and they with him: fellow cadets, instructors, officers, sponsor family and citizens off post was a chance of a lifetime. These special moments and interactions told us things about our son and his life that he never will.

My point is "cadets are special people". I have wondered why go through this and as a Mom I still had moments where I thought "Is it worth it?" They are so young and sacrificing so much. This weekend gave me a sense of why. West Point is a special place. My questions were answered and for this I thank the United States Military Academy at West Point for PPW.

Our weekend was wonderful in every way. Having never been to West Point, we were amazed at its incredible beauty. The weekend held so many highlights, including the parade - WOW! Very impressive, and what perfect weather!

My parents accompanied us and my mother spent most of the time in her wheelchair due to health problems. Everywhere we went at West Point, people - especially those in uniform - were quick to offer assistance, and we are grateful for their kindness.

Seeing our daughter's barracks was fun (her room is certainly cleaner than when she lived at home!), and we also enjoyed meeting some of her teachers, who were most gracious and knowledgeable. We also had to take a photo of the sign outside Lincoln Hall, a sign you wouldn't see at other colleges - it read "Department of English - Department of Social Sciences - Combating Terrorism Center"!

We met our daughter's sponsors, who opened up their home to us so that we could dress for the banquet. Like so many other West Point faculty and staff members, they made us feel right at home. Our sons and daughters are truly in very good hands at USMA.

The banquet was outstanding. How refreshing to attend an elegant event where patriotism is celebrated and prayer is welcomed. We greatly enjoyed visiting with our daughter's friends and her TAC that evening. (And thanks to Plebe-Net, our glasses survived the flight home in bubble wrap!)

My parents were among the many guests who were unable to get banquet tickets, but they were able to join a group of other family members (arranged by a Plebe-Net parent) for dinner at the Thayer Hotel, and they had a great time. We met up at Eisenhower Hall for the Hop, and though our time there was brief (our daughter had CCQ duty at 10:00 and our hotel was 45 minutes away), the receiving line moved quickly and the USMA Band was great!

On Sunday we went to New York City and had the same experience at Ground Zero as another parent described - we were invited onto the closed observation deck by a guard who saw my daughter's uniform. What a sobering experience to stand at that site, to see the damaged buildings that still remain, and to read the names of those who perished. We will never forget.

Certainly the greatest highlight for us was seeing our daughter. Though she was miserable from R-Day through Re-Orgy Week, she now loves West Point and the friends she has made there. She was so happy and proud to share her enthusiasm for this place with us, and knowing that she feels at home there made it so much easier for us to leave on Monday.

What a glorious weekend. I cannot wait to go back to West Point!

Our PPW experience was rewarding! I would like to say thank you to the moderators who prepared us so well with wonderful advice prior to the event.For those of you who are familiar with the South Docks (we made it from the mess hall to the docks in 10 mins, walking!). Our cadet was like an open book...As he knew that he would miss his Sister and Father's B-Days, he had carefully crafted beautifully written cards...somehow we knew that he had grown up tremendously...these words touched the heart strings of our famiy in a special way, that words cannot express. As we were departing, we had to remain strong for his sister as she wept...All this, to say that in the past it would've been for our cadet but as you all know are "other children" may be internalizing emotions that we may not be aware of til the flood gates open...She has already written to her brother expressing her love , pride and faith...I apologize in advance for being perhaps sentimental, but all this to !say that the events of PPW were awe inspiring but also brought out other important things in the forefront...In closing, we were also able to spend time with a special family from Long Island who has adopted our cadet, as we live further away from WP.

The weekend at WestPoint was wonderful. The sense of history, the magnificance of the campus, the pride of the cadets and the officers all came together to fill us with awe. My son related his experience at the memorial service for a cadet he didn't really know yet during the service he felt the presence of all the cadets (ghosts and/or in flesh) who had gone before joining with those present in a kind of brotherhood that was beyond description. He told us that while he often told us that life there was great, that he was "loving it", and that it couldn't get much better; he was afraid that we might have misinterpreted that to mean that he was "having fun" or "enjoying himself" which was certainly not true. He said it was hard, extremely stressful,and emotionally, physically and mentally taxing, but that when he would get to a point where he might be overwhelmed; he would look out and remember just where he was and who all had traveled that path before. Then he would be content, even happy. At one point he spoke of plebe year as being the easiest year he would face. Plebe year is a year when all you are responsible for is to obey your superior officers. After that, he explained, he would be responsible for much more, even for the behavior of others. We saw cadets tipping other cadets in a helpful way, and the other cadets accepting the correction honorably. We heard stories from our cadet and the cadet we "adopted" on Sunday that gave us a clearer picture of how things work at West Point. The academic open house was informative and impressive. The physical education demonstrations were excellent, especially the gymnastics (military movement) and the aquatics (survival and military movement in water). Sunday service was inspirational in every way. It was very hard to leave, not because I don't trust that my son is in the best possible location for an excellent education of mind, soul and body; but because he holds a large piece of my heart and it aches with pride, sorrow, joy, fear, and awe.

If you want, you can put this on the entire Plebe net. Because we live 55 minutes from WP, we have seen our Plebe at every home game, had him home with three buddies for a spirit pass, and been able to get lots of time with him--our experience was not as emotional as for those who don't have our access. But PPW was wonderful--far better than we could have imagined.

WP organized everything beautifully. We loved the tour of the Supe's house--the docents were so helpful, the line was short, but long enough to meet people, and the house fascinating. We both adored the tour of the clothing factory. How can only 40 people produce all those garments for all those cadets? Awe inspiring.

But the best of all was meeting three of our cadet's teachers and his TAC. He has been rather gloom and doom about his performance--low and behold, they raved about him! We found they each knew our cadet very well, spoke highly about the effort he is putting in, knew of his concerns--rather than a nameless, faceless number, he is someone each of these teachers cares strongly about.

Our cadet's room was chosen to be the sample dorm room for touring parents--it was amazingly clean. We can't believe that he even lines up his cleaning supplies from lowest to tallest--and that his socks must have smiley faces!

Then the banquet was wonderful--met several fascinating families, lots of other cadets who were wonderful--and then rediscovered that our cadet could vie for a role in Saturday Night Fever--he cut such a rug at the hop! I thought he would be low key with all of his superior officers around, but he really let loose. His poor sister, who, at 14 hasn't taking ballroom dancing lessons yet, had quite a time keeping up with him--as did this old mom. But it was wonderful--especially when he led a line of 10-12 people in a dance routine!

So, it was a magical weekend for us. We dutifully brought him home when he was free, and back for the nights. He went through the awkwardness of seeing his high school buddies while he was in uniform, and with his "cover" (hat) on--but didn't let their ribbing bug him. And, as you had warned us, he found going back Monday late afternoon a little bittersweet--but we had all had such fun for the previous days, that even that was okay.

So--PPW is a must-do event. Kudos to West Point for making it such a meaningful experience for all of us.

We had a wonderful time at PPW. Our cadet is adjusting well and learning how to manage life at West Point. It is the perfect place for him. We enjoyed the demonstrations put on by each group, from table duties to PMI,AMI and SAMI. A fashion show and a laundry demonstration that was unbelievable. We really appreciated meeting our cadets teachers and TAC officer, all whom seemed very personable, kind and enthusiastic. How lucky our cadet is to have all of them! Of course eating in the mess hall for lunch and the formal dinner is an unforgettable memory. It was all out of this world. I was very impressed that the kitchen crew was able to feed that huge number of people so efficiently. All in all, a wonderful weekend.

We had the greatest time!

Since we arrived at West Point at around 6:30pm on Friday, we missed all theactivities of that day. Soinstead, we picked up our cadet and took him todinner and a quiet rest at our hotel in Nanuet. It was just pure bliss tohave him all to ourselves again.

Saturday was jammed packed with activities. We attended the LDR briefing at Ike Hall, the academic open houses, the parade, lunch in the mess, The TAC orientation and the barracks visit. We also visited the Cadet store. The banquet was wonderful, as was the chance to greet Sgt. Major. Butts. What a great guy!

On Sunday, we went to church, and then into New York City for the day. Even though it drizzled a little in the city, most of the day was just beautiful. In fact, the whole weekend had perfect weather. We visited the U.N., Little Italy and China Town. It was fun running into other cadets and their families. We also ran across a group of "Squids" ( Annapolis cadets). They were quite friendly. The guys all joshed each other about their various
traditions, and football.

Monday began with breakfast buffet with our cadet and his roommate, at the Thayer Hotel. The food was delicious. Then we spent the rest of our time exploring the West Point Museum and the town of Highland Falls. After returning the two cadets to their barracks, I wandered around taking pictures of everything I could think of, before hitting the road to catch my flight home from Newark.

It was an absolutely wonderful weekend, and the Academy did a superb job of making us all feel welcome. I feel very certain that my son is in the best place for him, and that he is happy there.

I have to say my wife and I found the weekend absolutly awe inspiring. To see the change in not only our cadet but all the others brought quite of flood of emotion. Watching them walk and the way they handled themselves with complete confidence and surety of their purpose made us believe this country will not only be in good hands in the future but has great promise as well. We were also very impressed with all those who are molding our cadets into future officers. The respect shown by everyone was awsome. It isn't something we normaly see in our daily settings. It was very refreshing. Saturdays parade was something to behold. The echo through the buildings had me wondering if there wasn't someone back in there calling orders to another troop or something. To us this was a once in a lifetime experiance and we were not disapointed in the least. I can truely say the time we spent at this great academy and around those very impressive young people has been far and away the best experiance of my life. The only negatives of the weekend were getting lost a couple of times.

What a wonderful weekend. We hadn't seen our son since he boarded the plane in June, how great it made us feel to see him so happy at WP. He tells us this is where he belongs, yes it is tough, yes he has down days, but he wouldn't trade it for the world.

We met a lot of wonderful people. My husband had foot surgery and was in a wheel chair, I was a little nervous about getting him around. What great people, not only the cadets but all the families, I had offers for help whenever I needed it.

It is difficult to choose one best memory, they were all perfect. If I had to choose only one it would be spending time with our son, didn't matter what we were doing we were together.

It was hard to see him leave in June, going into the unknown, it was hard leaving on Monday night of PPW but it was a different hard, we know he is happy and is doing what in his heart he has alway wanted to do!!!

Thanks to everyone at WP that made such a special and memorable time for the plebs and their families.

What a weekend!!! We enjoyed so much getting an inside look at our son's enviroment!!! We didn't get to see everything that we had planned but just spending time with our cadet was all I needed!
At the banquet I was pouring the gravy and some dripped off the gravy boat, my cadet looked at me and asked me if he could show me how to pour it without it dripping? He showed me how and I asked him what he did with my son?
On sunday we spent the day in Hyde Park and toured the home of FDR. We were walking down the path back to our car and we heard an ambulance. All of a sudden a man came running up behind us yelling that the ambulance was for his wife who had collapsed. The ambulance was having trouble finding where to go to get back to this man's wife, all of a sudden our cadet took off in a dead run and ran down the ambulance and moved some baracades that were in the way so that the ambulance could get through. When our cadet got back to us I explained how proud I was of him and he simply said he did what was expected of him as a cadet and as a person! I think that pretty much sums up what being a cadet at West Point means to him and why when he does have a bad day he has to remember the big picture and what it means to his country hear or abround! Needless to say I couldn't be more proud of our son and all the cadets for their determination and hard work!!

Everytime, and I mean everytime, I visit West Point, I come away with the inexorable feeling of God's grace in directing our son to West Point. I knew it was a great place, but never realized how good.

Look at and speak to any cadet and one feels as though they have met a person of character, mature beyond their years. The job that these cadets did to organize the weekend was stellar. Meeting parents over PPW revealed that "the apple does not fall far from the tree".

What an interesting experience to sit with people from all over the country at the Banquet. (I advocate lobbying for more of such events. It was the highlight of the weekend.) The atmosphere of the occasion, combined with the pride we feel over our cadets' accomplishments made the experience a highlight in our lives. Those dress uniforms seem even more attractive when they are on your cadet!

The professors were so concerned about their students and, because of their age, seemed capable of positive influence over their students. Our Mathethematics Professors killed us with kindness and information about the coursework that we could not hope to understand. They were so interested in telling us about the course that we could not impress them with the fact that we could not understand what they were talking about!
The Physical Education demonstrations were fascinating. It is inspiring to see how cadets learn to overcome adversity and fight on.

The Army personnel are so impressive in their sense of duty and altruism that I am so glad that I could meet them and have my son participate in the Army life. When I think of the future of these fine cadets, whether it be in Iraq or similar location, I can see how the Point cadets will have a sense of pride in duty to accomplish the mission, in spite of the difficulties they face.

The buildings are so suitable and symbolic of the solidity of the Army. They are picturesque and practical. The campus is one of the most beautiful in the world. I have visited many in the US, UK, and Canada. The land and its overlooking the magnificent Hudson makes the post grand.

Where else would our children find a more healthy, positive environment for university? Where else would they mature so quickly? Where else would they have the broadness of experience of military, physical, and superior academic training? Where could they find greater access to religious experience? Where else could they find better access to their professors, including small classes, and counseling? It is a complete package.

Patriotism is not dead, in spite of what much of the media says.
Duty, Honor, Country.

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