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Friday, January 16, 1987
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Midshipmen stand in formation on the parade ground
at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In the
background: the academy chapel.
"would have been one of the best picks the
Academy could have made." David got his
"concepts of duty and commitment from
Israel, where he spent some time...That's
where the idea of going to a military
academy came from, even though his
grandfather had gone to West Point." Fur-
thermore, David overcame more than the
usual stiff competition to get accepted. He
underwent major surgery to correct a
varicose vein and he also wears glasses,
which means he was competing for a
limited number of slots alloted to students
with physical handicaps.
David's parents were moving from Con-
necticut to California immediately after
they dropped their son at the Academy
last summer. Because of errors in their
itinerary, David couldn't reach them by
phone three nights in a row. Coupled with
the "disorientation" he felt at the family's
uprooting, this put David under unusual
pressure, his father explained. The young
man sought help from the upperclassman
in charge who could have provided emo-
tional support. Instead, Steven Rivkin
says, "His upperclassman used (the
problems) as a tool to see how strong he
was." David had thought that the "tough,
rigid, unyielding, insensitive environment
would be equalized by the esprit d'corps.
But that (the comaraderie) was lost after
Plebe Summer when people hardly said
hello because they were afraid to talk in
the halls." David, who did outstandingly
well academically, "didn't do well on the
trivia," his father noted. "They came down
harder and harder on him," until David
left after the academic year had begun.
Anne-Barbara Slemrod, of Glastonbury, Conn., is the
only female Jewish plebe at the academy. A top
student, she is also on the rowing crew.
Parents and son are all devastated by the
way things turned out, but Mr. and Mrs.
Rivkin say they still believe in the
A retired officer who was privy to the
situation admits that, "if David had
lucked out and been in a different com-
pany, he might have made it. If you're
marginal to begin with, it's a matter of
luck who you meet to pull you through.
It's part of the system's methodology to
find out who can make it and who can't."
The same officer pointed out that mak-
ing it at the Academy is not prerequisite
to becoming a fine naval leader. "The vast
majority come out of R.O.T.C. and do very
well," he said, but conceded that the Navy
is bound by tradition and a "good-old-boy
system," more than the other military ser-
vices. "Academy grads are called 'ring
knockers,"' he said, because they never
forget they're wearing those graduation
There is still a long way to go before any
of the current fourth-classmen will be wear-
ing graduation rings. But the Academy's
mission, the goal of all four years' training,
is constantly before them. Each is being
prepared, mentally, morally and physical-
ly, to be a professional officer in the U.S.
Naval Service. But when things get tough,
there is always the more immediate prize
to shoot for — that glorious day in spring
when one plebe will scramble to the top of
the heavily-larded Herndon Monument. At
the moment he or she places a cap on the
top of the obelisk, the midshipmen can put
plebe life behind them and enter the