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Thursday, May 20, 2010

50th Reunion

Tuesday was the Alumni Parade that is a traditional part of graduation week at West Point. It is the least favorite of the cadets because it is the longest lasting parade. In this case there were 800 graduates from the classes of ’35, ’40, 45, ’50, ’55, and ’60 ready to march (slowly) across the plain to lay a wreath at the monument of Sylvanus Thayer prior to the actual parade. We were beset by a cold steady rain. So the old grads did their march, but the parade itself was cancelled. We then adjourned to Washington hall for a lunch of cordon bleu. Of course we arrived ahead of schedule, so we waited and visited for a half an hour until lunch was ready…at least we were out of the rain and visiting is what we do best. There were presentations made to this year’s group of distinguished grads. Then ’55 and ’60 made presentations of gifts to the Association of Graduates. Actually, ’60 made two presentations, and I had the honor of presenting one of them. At the conclusion of the agenda the Supe made some closing remarks, ending with, “I blame the Chaplain for the weather and applaud the Commandant for canceling the parade.” Then he called for the benediction. The Chaplain approached the mike, paused, and said, “About the weather…you must remember that I’m not in management, I’m in sales.” When was the last time you heard a benediction get a round of applause? He finished with a conventional benediction.
At each table of ten, a cadet was detailed to accompany the grads and guests to provide local color and information. At our table was a cadet Jameel (not his real name…more later) who is the only Iraqi exchange cadet that has ever come to West Point. He will graduate Saturday with a degree in chemical engineering, and he hopes to go to grad school before he returns to Baghdad. His real name is hidden so as to protect his parents in Baghdad. We had a wonderfully interesting conversation.
The next event was a memorial service for 113 fallen classmates in the cadet chapel. It was an excellent and unique service. Of the 420 living graduates, 285 were present along with an equal amount of spouses, widows, children and grandchildren of deceased classmates. We even had a 94 year old mother of a classmate who was KIA in Vietnam. Later at the dinner dance she out danced a lot of folks 20 years her junior. At the dinner dance the first dance was done by the couples that had been married in 1960. There were 58 couples of us crowding the dance floor. That’s out of a graduating class of 550. That’s probably not going to happen again.
Wednesday we head for the FamCamp at Round Pond as we prepare for our role in graduation.
The picture of Durelle signing a wine-stained tablecloth is an interesting story. In 1960 there was a Valentines Day party at the on base quarters of the post eye surgeon whose daughter was dating one of my classmates in cadet company H-2. Their place had become a home-away-from-home for much of H-2. When wine was spilled on the embossed, damask tablecloth, we wrote off the table cloth and bought the hostess a new one, but first we all decided to autograph the tablecloth. Jitske and her mother then embroidered all the signatures and washed it. You can see in the picture that the stains are still there. Jitske recently found it and brought it to the reunion. For those H-2ers and their brides, such as Durelle, who were not at the 1960 party thus had a second chance to sign fifty years later.
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