Sunday, May 23, 2010

West Point Graduation

Brock and I got the opportunity to experience an event yesterday that I am so proud to have attended.

A friend of ours, our Best Man in fact, John, was offered tickets to the West Point Graduation. President Obama was going to be giving the commencement speech. So he contacted us and our other good friends, Kate and Evan, to join he and his wife, Eileen. So we asked the Durhams if they could watch Leda until Sat night and we headed north on Friday night.

Due to the large number of people who were going to be descending upon the small town of Highland Falls and the security due to the President's attendance, we needed to arrive in town early...this meant leaving the house by 5:15. AM. In the morning. So we got up REALLY early and headed on over. John's plan was to park at his place of business (John runs the West Point Tour company in the town of Highland Falls), we would have a bit of breakfast at the local greasy spoon (oh, and it was greasy, and GOOD!) and then take a nice walk up to the stadium. And I mean UP to the stadium.

It was a nice walk, we got to see the campus (part of the campus) and we made our way to the Stadium (let me say, West Point has a beautiful campus and a wonderful practice facility! Wow!) We were in our seats by 7:10! We got to watch the non-graduating Cadets file in and take their seats in the section next to us. And the sun rise over the Hudson Valley. And read the news paper. And have some coffee. See, the ceremony wasn't set to start until 10AM!

It was a nice morning. The weather was beautiful and we had wonderful company. And we got to watch all the men (and women) in uniform come on in!

At 9:30 the graduating class, all 1,002 of them, began to march into the stadium. What a sight. Shortly after that, the professors and instructors arrived and then the special guests arrived. Well, except for the President. He was just flying in over the Hudson as the Cadets were marching in.

About 10, the President's motorcade arrived. There was about a 10-15 minute wait, during which, the first 5-7 minutes, the stadium was the quietest I've ever heard a stadium be! And then the calls from the stands to the Cadets on the field started. It was quite comical! Then the President was announced, he came in and was seated. The Ceremony began.

The beginning of the ceremony was fairly quick...National Anthem was played, invocation was given, Opening remarks by the Superintendent and then the President gave his speech. It was a great commencement speech which honored the Cadets on the field. We were happy to learn (and us girls, very proud!) that the two valedictorians of the class were women.

The President handed out degrees to the Honor graduates and stayed on the podium to shake every hand of every graduating Cadet. It was quite a site to watch 1,002 Cadets receive their degrees. After each and everyone was called, we were proud to witness the commissioning of the Cadets. It was quite an honor.

Early on in the ceremony it had occurred to me that I wasn't just watching a college graduation...this ceremony was different from my graduation from college in that these students were not just entering their adult life to go off and become lawyers, doctors, business people. These men and women were more than likely going off to fight in the war. It was quite sobering. And made me even more proud to have been able to attend. It was an honor.

After the commissioning, the Cadets were dismissed, at which time, the Hat Toss happened. Now, I knew about this, it's similar to the tossing of the graduation cap at other colleges and high schools. What I did not know is that in this tradition, the Cadet, who no longer needs the hat, as he/she is no longer a Cadet, will place a note, an address, maybe even money, into his/her hat. The school invites children between the ages of 6 and 10 to come onto the field at the time of the hat toss. And when the hats are tossed, the children are encouraged to go get a hat. They get to keep the hat and become pen pals with the Cadet. What an awesome idea. It was a fun tradition to watch!

It was an awesome day. So happy I got to experience it.

More pictures here!

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