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Cullum Files

historical records

Class Notes

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Love, West Point Style

Most people don’t think of ‘love’ when they think of the United States Military Academy, but several aspects associated with adoration and affection have become synonymous with West Point.

First, there is Flirtation Walk, a ¾-mile rock and gravel footpath running along the western shoreline of the Hudson River from the helipad at North Dock (through the Kelleher-Jones Memorial Arch) to the edge of the Lincoln Hall parking lot. Romance-wise, the most famous aspect of Flirtation Walk is Kissing Rock, a jutted cliff along the trail. Tradition states that a cadet must kiss his date as they pass underneath the overhanging rock or else it will fall (presumably crushing both of them). West Point also has a Kissing Tree, but one must leave the Post to find it. Bugle Notes states that at Camp Buckner, the home of Cadet Field Training, there is a second Flirtation Walk, with its own smooching spot under a tree with a large orange band painted on it about 100 yards from Barth Hall.

Another romance tradition at West Point is the Two-Percent Club, which refers to high-school sweethearts who remained committed to each other during the cadet’s time at West Point (although there is some debate as to whether or not they must marry after graduation to be full-fledged members of the club). To demonstrate his commitment back in the day, the cadet often offered his girlfriend a “spoony button” (full-dress button), the equivalent to the modern A-Pin. As they dated, it is likely that the cadet took his OAO (“one and only”) to one of the many hops once held at Cullum Hall (they moved to Eisenhower Hall in 1974). These hops were also the site of many first time dates between cadets and the ‘femmes’ of Ladycliff College, which was located just down the road from USMA until it closed in 1980 (speaking of percent clubs, about 18 percent of the ‘Cliffies,’ as they were known to cadets, married a West Pointer).

The last love at West Point is not of the romantic kind as were the above examples, but it pertains to commitment and devotion nonetheless. This is the love that comes with leadership. Bill Murphy Jr. describes this kind of love in an essay for Inc. magazine: “I don’t know how often new cadets think about the bigger picture of leadership when they’re in the middle of a 12-mile ruck march or rattling off some of the thousands of pages of trivia they have to memorize in response to an upperclassman’s inquiries. But I can tell you this: Great leadership—at West Point and everywhere—has a lot to do with love. Not romantic love or unconditional love but that caring, passionate drive that binds teams together to accomplish goals greater than any individual among them could imagine.” As a graduate, you needn’t have kissed someone underneath a rock or been a member of some club to know about this kind of love. You lived it.