Yesterday’s rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the cadets and their families and friends at the ceremony marking the graduation and commissioning of the West Point Class of 2013. In some ways it was similar to many of the other graduations you’ve attended, and yet in other ways it was different.
Yes, there was a procession as the graduating class entered, but this time it was very precise as every cadet’s left foot hit the ground at the same time. Yes, there was a commencement speaker, but this time it was Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Yes, the commencement address mentioned the hard work that it had taken to get this far, but this time members of the Class of 1963 also were there to lend support (as the class had done during the entire 4 years). Yes, the graduates were wearing their class rings, but the gold to make these rings had been melted together with old class rings that had been donated by former West Point graduates and their families.
We were there to honor one of the graduating cadets, but we felt an intense feeling of pride for each member of the graduating class, and you could tell that every person in the stadium shared that feeling. Although not a West Point graduate myself, I was an Army officer so perhaps I noticed and appreciated some of the protocols and traditions more than most. However, many things have changed over the years, and I was pleased to see that about 25% of the graduating cadets were females.
Looking around the stadium I saw a familiar Rumson name, “1958 – Dawkins”, referring to Pete Dawkins, the most accomplished Heisman Trophy winner of all time, who also happened to be a Rhodes Scholar, and who has had an outstanding career in the military and in civilian life.
Back to graduation similarities and differences: yes, diplomas were presented to each of the graduates, but this time each graduate was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Yes, there was a benediction, but this time the chaplain observed that “Duty, Honor, Country” can be a way to look at everything in life.
After all of the cadets had graduated and had been commissioned, they were dismissed, and they joyfully threw their white caps into the air and looked for their girlfriends, parents, families and friends in the stadium. This would be the last time we’d see them wearing their gray cadet uniforms, but the smiles on their faces told us that, like all graduates, they were glad to be finished and they were looking forward to the next phase of their lives. Here’s a link to a YouTube video that I took of the Commandant of Cadets administering the oath of office, followed by the singing of The Army song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFvN53rNyt0.
On a personal note: Mike, we’re very proud of you and of what you’ve accomplished already. Although a thousand cadets graduated yesterday, to us you’re one in a million!
Leonard “Len” Dunikoski, GRI
Diane Turton Realtors – Rumson Office
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