The military is known for sticking to its guns, even when, as is the case with the West Point Military Academy’s annual pillow fight, the human cost is just too high. The generations-long tradition has come to a violent head in recent years, as cadets—many of whom are destined to be future leaders in our armed forces—loaded up their pillow cases with decidedly un-feather-like materials. The results? This year there was a body count of 30 injured, 24 of whom had concussions, plus reports of broken bones, lost teeth, and knockouts.
Officially ordained as a way for cadets to blow off steam and do some bonding, participants are supposed to wear helmets and other safety gear. However, as the videos show, many chose not to. While the fight has been happening since the late 1800s, according to, ironically, a report on hazing at the Academy, it’s only recently that things have gotten so ugly – in 2012 a student put a lockbox in his pillowcase.
“At first the body count, people were joking about it,” a female cadet told the New York Times, who broke the story. “My friends were really excited. And right after, when we learned how many people had gotten hurt, everyone felt totally hard-core. I know it looks weird from the outside, but it really bonds us.”
As of now, officials say they have no plans of cancelling the annual melee.