Naval Academy plebes climb to the top of Herndon Monument

It took the plebes an hour and 40 minutes to reach the top of the Herndon monument Monday. Photo: Horace Holmes/ABC7

It was time for an annual tradition Monday at the U.S. Naval Academy as plebes took part in the Herndon Monument Climb.

Is it an effort in futility or an exercise in teamwork and persistence?

“In there it’s really wet, it’s really sweaty, it’s really slippery,” says Midshipman Rachel Bailey.

It’s a tradition for the plebes, or freshman class, at the Naval Academy.

“For the pride and camaraderie of his class and the service he’s about to do,” says Jerry Casey.

The climb to the top of the Herndon Monument in the heart of campus officially marks the end of their first year at the Naval Academy. It’s been a tradition since 1940.

Bob Hide was a career Navy man and a veteran of World War II. He came with his family from Texas to watch his grandson make the rite of passage.

“He’s a wonderful young man and he’s going to do great things,” says Hide.

The 21-foot statue is covered with lard and as the plebes climb and give each other a foot and shoulder up, water is sprayed to make things even more difficult.

Before they can complete their freshman year, one of the plebes must get to the top of the statue to knock off the Dixie cup that’s there and replace it with an upper classman’s hat. All of them must work together.

It took an hour and 40 minutes for the plebes to reach the top. Pat Lien from Orlando was the one who tossed the hat that stuck to the top of the monument.

“Kind of sat out for a little to get some perspective on what was working, what wasn’t, and just found myself at the top,” he says.