Tuesday, July 8, 2008

R-Day For Parents

R-Day is fraught with peril for cadets: standing in lines, getting their heads shaved, marching around in the heat, wearing seriously uncomfortable shoes, getting yelled at.... But they already knew about all of that. What nobody told us was that R-Day is perilous for parents as well.

Like new cadets, parents do a great deal of walking on R-Day, and it isn't just a stroll around the block. One of the things you notice immediately, and you will continue to notice throughout the day, is that everything is uphill. It is definitely a day for walking shoes, and if you had the foresight to join your cadet candidate in his physical conditioning program, it is going to pay off right here. Of course, unlike the new cadets, parents have the option of the shuttle bus... If they can figure out how it runs. In our case it was pretty much of a crap shoot, so we depended mostly on our own feet. Thank goodness for all those long walks with our new cadet over the past few months.

In addition to walking, walking, walking, another similarity between cadets' R-Day and parents' R-Day comes to mind, namely weight training.

Cadets get issued a bag of some sort that they carry with them all the livelong day. Every time they stop, someone adds something to the bag, so that by the end of the day I imagine it is quite heavy. And I'm not sure what they did to deserve it, but I noticed in the R-Day pictures, that more than one cadet had two full bags to carry. Did they disregard their packing list and bring too much with them? Well, they were instructed about that before they came, unlike their parents , who received no warning whatsoever.

Upon exiting the auditorium, after the abbreviated 60-second goodbye, most of the parents headed straight for the ballroom where every imaginable vendor had a booth set up. Every parent passing the USAA booth was graciously issued a sturdy canvas tote bag with "Proud Parent of a West Point cadet" written on one side (We made sure we kept that side facing out on our trip home.), and big enough to carry every little thing we might decide to pick up during the day. In addition to this nice roomy bag, most parents opted to spring for the "USMA Class of 2012" bag with their new cadet's name on it, and these, too, were fully loaded by the end of the day.

One problem parents faced that cadets did not, was finding their car when it was time to go home, and before they could look for their car, they had to locate the correct lot. Thanks to our early morning report time, we were able to park in the first lot, and we had actually taken note of where in the first lot we had parked, but not everyone was so visionary. On our way back to our car at the conclusion of the parade, we were surprised to see quite a number of parents sitting on the ground around the edge of our parking lot. Having failed to train adequately for the rigors of R-Day, these parents, defeated by the almost-vertical path up to the first parking lot, sent out scouting parties to search the upper lots and then sat down and waited to be rescued.

And on that car issue...it is hoped that the cadets can follow orders better than can their parents who clogged up the entrance to the first lot in order to avoid having to venture farther up.

But not all was peril at R-Day. Much more was praiseworthy:

Outside of the few who could have benefited from some etiquette training (People standing at the front and holding their cameras at arm's length up over their heads, so that not even the tallest in the back could see over them, come immediately to mind.), most people were friendly and gracious, with a "we're all in this together" sort of attitude.

The MP's were unfailingly polite and ready to give a ride when the shuttle bus service didn't measure up.

We were able to catch welcome glimpses of the new cadets here and there throughout the day, in varying stages of their in-processing and training.

The informative and humorous tone (as well as the content) of the supe's briefing was highly appreciated. Just the chance to sit down and cool off was appreciated by that time, so being educated and entertained all at the same time was a welcome bonus!

And don't forget the parade and the oath ceremony at the end of the day. We had no trouble at all locating our own new cadet, but even before we saw him, we were filled with awe at the accomplishments of the day. The scene at Trophy Point that evening was a whole different world from the scene at Ike Hall that morning.

Perils and Praises...both sides of R-Day. The outstanding one, though, the ultimate peril... was going home cadet-less. That is going to take getting used to.

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