Climbing the Herndon Monument is a rite of passage for first-year Naval Academy students. To make it harder, the 21-foot obelisk is slathered with 200 pounds of lard. But not this year, the Washington Post reports. In the name of safety, the academy superintendent ordered: Hold the lard.
At the end of their grueling first year, they gather, 1,000 strong, at the foot of the monument and work their way to the top in a greasy human pyramid, fighting gravity and slogging through mud as upper-class midshipmen spray the greasy throng with hoses. This year, the hoses, too, were absent.
A plebe reached the top of the obelisk Monday afternoon in two minutes, five seconds. No one was injured. No one even got particularly dirty. The sense of collective letdown might have been captured best in the words scrawled onto one midshipman’s T-shirt: “Where’s the grease?”
In past years, midshipmen have been injured, though all have recovered.
The first mid to the top plants a midshipman’s cap. According to legend, not yet fulfilled, he or she will be first in the class to attain the rank of admiral. It’s a triumph of teamwork and grit and a sight to behold. Spectators have watched plebes struggle for four hours to reach the top. No class has ever given up.
Safety first is silly, writes Betsy. She agrees with Herbert McMillan ’80, who told the Post: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.”