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Saturday, May 22, 2010

West Point Graduation 2010

We are done with the festivities. It's back to shorts, polo shirt and bare feet. We have both had enough protocol for a while. It started Friday afternoon with a black tie reception at the Commandant's quarters. The picture shows me in a tux for the first time in 25 years. It was held outside in his handsome garden with plenty of high end snacks and an open bar. As you might imagine, restraint was the order of the day. From there we walked to Washington Hall for the graduation banquet. The speaker was the Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey. Transportation to and from all the events was provided by the AOG (Association of Graduates). Today was graduation; always a hectic time even without the additional constraints of a presidential visit. We got a real break as far as the weather was concerned. It was warm, but not hot with a light overcast...ideal if you have to sit in the sun for three hours. First we went to breakfast at the Supe's house. It was very nicely done as you would expect. The Secretary of the Army and a few congressmen were also present. At the stadium the metal detectors and wands were operated by the secret service, and there were several dozen of them all over the grounds, but everything went smoothly. We were transported with police escort. Durelle and I were in separate mini-buses. The four 2Lt bar presenters went to one side of the stadium and our wives were escorted to the Superintendant's Loge under the press box. There were just over a thousand graduates, and they came off both sides of the stage in fairly rapid order. The academy has it down to a science. At each stage exit there two members of the class of 1960 alternately handing out their first "brown bars". The four of us were listed by name in the program and announced individually by the Adjutant to be recognized.
The President did just fine. He rendered the appropriate courtesies at the appropriate times in the proper manner. His speech did a great job of recognizing the class and the institution. The non-traditional part of the speech was right down the middle, too. The point was that it takes more than a great military to remain a great nation. All aspects of society must contribute, and a strong economy is essential to our ability to exert global power. There were no controversial sound bites here.
From there we went, again with police escort, to Eisenhower Hall where the Supe individually gave the oath of office and the ceremonial pinning on of bars with family to nine distinguished grads...valedictorian (a woman), the First Captain, the class president, etc. Again, the four members of 1960 were recognized. Then we had a lunch that was the best meal of the week. From there it was back to RV and returned to earth. Sure, there were some hassles, but it was a moving and significant experience.
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