Wall reflects on plebe summer

Gunnar Wall ’19 shares experience from his first summer at the US Naval Academy.


provided by Grady Wall

Gunnar Wall gives a death stare during his experience of plebe summer at the Naval Academy.

Last year, from the class of 2019, Elder High School sent six courageous men off to serve their country shortly following graduation. Matthew Allison and Tyler Schutte enlisted in the United States Army, Brad Gemereth enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, Ben Johnson now attends The Citadel, Tim Finley continued his academic and athletic career at the U.S Merchant Marine Academy, and Gunnar Wall, the man I’ll be focusing on, chose to attend the United States Naval Academy.

Being fortunate enough to know Gunner ever since I was in about the fifth grade, playing hoops up at Our Lady of Lourdes, he has always struck me as motivated kid. I can remember one incident where we were playing a pickup game up at the gym and he came in to box me out for a rebound. Being a year older than me, he clearly wanted to assert his dominance as he proceeded to shove me as I went up to grab the ball for a board. I can remember how physical the kid played and in guarding him every time, all I wanted to do was match that physicality.

Looking back now, I can clearly see some of the qualities and characteristics that led Gunnar to the prestigious pinnacle he has reached today. Determination, leadership, and overcoming adversity are just a few of Wall’s qualities that deserve recognition.

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Gunnar and get some insight on his first “plebe’ summer at the Academy. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “plebe”, it simply refers to a newly entered cadet or freshman, especially at a military academy. I asked him to give a brief rundown of all plebe summer entails.

Plebe Summer

“Plebe summer is designed to break you down as individuals and build you up as a member of a team, in my opinion. That’s exactly what it did. We don’t just think and act for ourselves, everything we do, we do together. Plebe summer prepares you to be a midshipman and all of plebe year prepares you to be an upperclassman. Once you’re an upperclassman, it’s about learning to lead because your next step is the fleet,” Wall said.

Physical toughness is essential to surviving in any military academy let alone one of the most prestigious, the Naval Academy. When asked about the physical aspect of things Wall said, “The physical training was rigorous but not dreadful by any means. I’ve played sports all my life and am reasonably fit, so the physical stuff wasn’t too bad.”

Not only does physical toughness play an essential part, but the mental strain and beating your mind takes while involved in this training can be brutal.

“The mental training on the other hand: that stuff breaks you down no matter how fit you are. However, when the times got tough, you just look around and see your classmates going through the same sh*t and knowing you we’re all in it together made it a lot easier,” he said.

He told me they had a saying that went like this: “If you aren’t pushing yourself, you aren’t getting better, so embrace the suck. The day you stop getting better mentally, morally, and physically is the day you start dying.”


I think that speaks to the type of character and person it takes to embrace the suffering of being a true midshipman and learning to fight for not only your own betterment, but the betterment of the unit as a whole.

I’m sure many of you have always wondered what campus life is like in an Academy setting just as I have. Wall explained to me that campus life is in fact not typical campus life at all. However, it is basically a walled-in military base. As freshmen, he told me that they are permitted to leave the yard on Saturdays until midnight, but other than that, they are always on the yard and their schedule is packed.

Wall leading his group (Grady Wall)

When asked about the transition from Elder to the Navy he said, “The transition is insane, but in my case, it has its similarities to Elder. The comradery is like no other, everyone here is a family. You push yourself in everything you do here. Complacency doesn’t exist. We strive for the higher things every day. Altiora forever.”

Due to a busy schedule and a high standard of academics, Wall told me that he does not have much free time at all. He said on Saturdays he’ll usually get lunch with his boys and then go hang out and nap at his sponsor, Thomas Sander’s (Elder grad) house. He also added that he’s been in contact with football coach, P.J. Volker (Elder grad).

Although his free-time is scarce, he has got involved with a few different clubs and sports this past summer.

Losing brain cells

“For some unknown reason, I boxed over plebe summer. I found that getting the crap beat out of me and beating the crap out of others made it easier to cope with all the emotions of plebe summer. However, I lost so many brain cells that now I play rugby, which isn’t any safer than boxing in terms of losing brain cells. I know it’s random, but it’s the best group of guys at the Academy and an amazing sport. They call it ‘elegant violence’ and I’m having the time of my life while in constant fear of getting crushed by a 200+ pound unit and possibly losing my life,” explained the onion himself.

Preparing to get decked by a unit (Grady Wall)

Indulging in these different activities has clearly seemed to make life more interesting and a created a nice separation from the everyday tasks of training and school work.

As mentioned before, Elder sent five other students off to some sort of military assignment along with Wall. I asked him if he’d been in contact with any of them since arriving on campus this summer. He said, “I haven’t been in touch with Schutte or Allison, but I’ve caught up with Brad Gamereth and I talk to Tim Finley all the time when I can.”

He told me that Tim has been one of his best buddies from high school and can often go to him when times get tough, as they are both experiencing some of the same difficulties at their own academies. He said, “He’s my go to guy whenever I’m losing my cool and I’m the same for him.”

Obviously Elder High School is not an easy place to walk away from, especially moving nearly nine hours away from the place you call home. However, the students, faculty, and alumni never forget the people that once walked the halls of this very building.

Missing home

Gunnar told me that he misses his family, friends, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the entire Elder community most. Freshmen Grady Wall, brother of Gunnar shared, “I never really knew how much Gunnar meant to me until he left. I miss all of the times that we would fight after I beat him in Madden or 2k.”

He finished by saying, “Gunnar really was a great role model for me and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Senior Willard Cluxton, cousin of Wall, expressed his sentiments saying, “We are very proud of what he’s accomplished but feel like a part of the family is missing while he is away. All we can do is encourage him because he is doing what he loves and serving our great country.”

With that being said, all of us here at Elder High School extend our praise and thanks to Gunnar and the five others that have gone off to serve our country for the better.