Emma Single wiped tears from her eyes as she greeted her family on the grass behind the statue of Tecumseh.
The plebe was hardly the only one. Parents and plebes alike had glistening eyes as they exchanged hugs for the first time in six weeks.
Parents’ Weekend marks the first time most plebes get to see their parents since Induction Day at the beginning of the summer. While it started on Thursday, activities pick up on Friday and continue through Sunday.
On Friday, shortly before the loud gongs announced the noon hour, each company lined up in formation in front of Bancroft Hall. Detailers had their plebes recite passages and sing Navy and Marine songs.
Then, after detailers reported all plebes were accounted for, the plebes were released to their waiting families.
Single, from Millersville, had been counting down the days since her parents brought her to the academy.
She had corresponded with her family through letters, and she had recently seen them during a sponsors day. Single asked her parents to register as sponsors so she would be able to bring her friends home when they have leave.
Still, the day was special, she said.
Plebe Summer has been difficult, especially the first two weeks, Single said, but she has made strong bonds with her company mates and is learning every day.
About two weeks in, Single called her mother Robin and was tearful. Robin Single was worried, but five days later, she received a letter from Emma saying that something finally clicked and she was doing much better. Another letter came saying she was happy at the academy and the call to her mother was the last time she cried.
Robin Single already can see differences in her daughter. Her stature is better. She speaks differently. But she is still the same storyteller that Robin sent to the academy.
The Singles would come on the Yard during plebe summer and watch their daughter and the other plebes from afar, Robin said.
When they met up for the sponsors day, Emma filled them in on all of the stories from her weeks at the academy.
Emma notices a difference too, she said. When the detailers yell at her, she no longer takes it personally. She understands why they are correcting her.
Her voice is more hoarse than when she arrived, in part from the yelling plebes are required to do.
Plebe Summer was a bit of a reality check for her, she said. It was physically and mentally challenging, more than she anticipated. But she has enjoyed some of the trainings, especially ones led by recent graduates.
Most families live out of state and could not come on the Yard or become sponsors like the Singles. When Keri Regnier dropped off her daughter Elizabeth, it was like she ripped her heart out
The past six weeks were tough, but their faith got them through it, Regnier said.
Elizabeth Regnier, of Westfield, Massachusetts, has wanted to go to a service academy since sixth grade. The Naval Academy was her first choice.
The summer was the first time she was away from her family, and that was difficult for them all. She was overwhelmed seeing her family again. She had been looking forward to it since she stepped foot on the Yard.
She’s been adjusting to the military life and the amount of work during Plebe Summer.
The days are long, she said, but the weeks are short. There have been plenty of ups and an equal amount of downs as she trained.
It’s been challenging, but her time at the academy has reinforced that she wants to be there.
Fellow New Englander Daniel Barber has also experienced the hardships from Plebe Summer. After six weeks, he’s used to the push-ups required for the plebes.
And the screaming. He knows now that the detailers are working to build them up as midshipmen, but that did not make the first week any easier.
But as much as he has been pushed physically, the hardest part of the summer was the distance from his friends and family back home. He’s stayed in touch via letters, but it was wonderful to see his family in person.
He is looking forward to the academic year and having a bit more independence, he said.
That does not surprise his mother, Lisa, who said that she worried about her son attending a service academy. As a child, he always wanted to do things his own way.
It’s been hard for Lisa Barber. She has two older children who have gone to college. One even studied abroad in Japan. Even then she could always communicate with her children, something she could not do with Daniel.
Daniel is thankful for his mother, especially after going through Plebe Summer. She never accepted any excuses when she raised him.
That discipline helped during the past few weeks, he said. The detailers did not take excuses, either.
Plebes will have one more week before the rest of the brigade reforms, allowing them to meet their other company mates and start the academic year.
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