Yesterday, I traveled to the United States Military Academy to watch my sister, Hope (a member of West Point’s Class of 2015) and the other cadets march back to campus from their basic training site. The 12-mile marchback signals the end of “Beast,” a six-week period of intense physical training that all cadets must undergo when they enter the academy.
Editor’s Note: I strive for grammar and style perfection, but I’m undoubtedly butchering the spelling of “marchback.” I’ve seen it written several different ways. Is it “marchback”? “march back”? “Marchback”? I have no idea, so I settled on “marchback.” If you’re an AP Stylebook editor, please comment with your all-important advice on the matter.
Grammatical worries aside, I really enjoyed being a part of the whole marchback experience. While I support my sister 100%, I’m not the best at appreciating all the military terminology and tradition involved with attending West Point. She’s had to explain to me the difference between “R-Day” and “A-Day” several times – and I’m still not sure if “Beast” is a nickname or an acronym – so it felt good to be part of such an important, tradition-filled day.
Parents, siblings, grandparents, West Point alumni, community members and West Point staff lined the sidewalks of Washington Road, to watch the cadets make the final push toward campus. Spectators lined the street with homemade signs, College GameDay-style, in support of their son or daughter, a specific company, or the entire class. I’m not crafty enough to make one of those, but I brought my Oregon football pennant in hopes my sister would see it and associate it with me. I only saw her for a split-second as she passed, and I wasn’t sure if she saw me, but I later learned from my mom (who talked to Hope on the phone) that she did!
I have missed my sister tremendously this summer, but I know that whatever I’ve felt is nothing compared to what a parent must
feel. Watching moms and dads tearfully wave to and cheer for their child as the cadets marched by practically made me cry. They haven’t seen their kids in nearly two months, so seeing them march through campus, in full uniform, carrying a heavy ruck sack on their backs, after having completed the most physically intense period of their life was obviously emotional.
At the end of this week, my parents and other sister (“other sister” sounds so heartless, like she’s not worthy of any further description. But I wasn’t sure if I’d ever introduced her on my blog; her name is Beth, and she’s almost eight years old) fly into New York and we’ll head back up to West Point to take part in the more official ceremonies involved with the end of Beast. (I believe it’s called “A-Day,” for “Acceptance Day,” in which they’re officially accepted as new cadets, but like I said – I’m not the best with West Point terminology.) Regardless, I feel very lucky to have seen the marchback. Congratulations to my sister and all the other West Point cadets who survived Beast!