Plebes greet their families

August 14, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Ben Zintak had missed some important links to the outside world during plebe summer, a punishing orientation to life as a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman.

His family members didn't forget his iPod, digital camera or the newest Harry Potter book when they left suburban Chicago to visit him for parents weekend in Annapolis, which ends today.

Rather than race off campus Friday after seven grueling weeks, Zintak wanted to show his parents and 15-year-old brother the vast dining hall and his dorm room - and solicit their help folding laundry.

"I'm not that sick of this place that I have to run out to downtown Annapolis," Zintak said.

More than 1,200 midshipmen got several hours of freedom this weekend after a summer of physical training, sailing, and pistol and riflery drills. They also studied military comportment, took academic placement tests and met with advisers in preparation for the school year.

They consume as much as 4,000 calories a day. King Hall, the dining facility, served more than 28,000 cookies so far this summer.

The orientation is also an exercise in sensory deprivation. Mids remain cloistered at the academy during plebe summer, rising early every day. They are allowed few personal items and three phone calls. The liberty during parents weekend is restricted to half-days.

After all that denial, Natalie-Rose Leialoha Jenkins had only one desire: a facial.

Attending the academy had been her dream for five years, said her mother, Monica Jenkins. Her daughter, 19, grew up near Tacoma, Wash., which she said has representatives of all branches of the military. A sea cruise helped her choose the Navy.

She enjoys being challenged, but a stress fracture in her right leg reduced her physical activity.

The families and friends had waited in the Annapolis heat Friday, hoping to spot their sons or daughters among the crowd of identical dress whites. Some wore Naval Academy hats or T-shirts identifying them as parents of Mids in specific companies. Others had name tags from parents clubs pinned to their shirts, shaped like the state in which they live.

After finding their offspring, exchanging often tearful greetings and admiring uniforms and newly developed muscles, many expected to spend the weekend indulging their sons and daughters' cravings, whether for naps, restaurant dinners or pedicures.

Toshi Williams' completion of plebe summer might settle some of the rivalries at her parents' Edgewater home.

Her mother, Cathy, retired from the Navy in 2002, and her father, Harvey, retired from the Air Force. Both said they refrained from influencing their daughter's choice.

The 19-year-old, a graduate of South River High School in Edgewater, is one of 229 midshipmen who are also graduates of the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I. She said she hoped to catch up with her former classmates, including Terry Borja of Brownsville, Texas, and Apphia Maxima of New York City.

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