Journey's end at West Point leads to new beginnings for graduates
By Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 28, 2014) — A West Point graduation is where drill and ceremony meets pomp and circumstance and for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2014, all the parades, speeches and award ceremonies came to an end May 28.
USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. told the Class of 2014 what makes these events so unique is how they serve to bind several generations that represent the past, present and future of West Point.
“On Memorial Day we honored those who serve this nation and have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Caslen said. “During the Alumni Review we reaffirmed a bond between the past service of our alumni and today’s Corps of Cadets. And with graduation, the great Class of 2014 joins the Long Gray Line, leading America’s sons and daughters while building the Army of today and the Army of tomorrow.”
For many firsties Graduation Week was a reminder of all they are leaving behind, but still it was hard to believe the 47 months were finally over.
“It’s almost surreal an experience because I don’t feel yet that I’m graduating,” Class of 2014 Cadet Warren Geary said. “It feels like an ordinary day—another parade, another banquet.”
If it seemed normal for Geary, speaking before the graduation banquet at Washington Hall May 27, it was probably because his focus wasn’t on diplomas and the hat toss—he was too busy scrutinizing every detail at every table, making sure his classmates and their guests were squared away.
“This is what I do,” Geary said.
As the ring and crest committee chairperson, Geary has worked behind the scenes at every class banquet and at the forefront too, taking the podium to raise his glass and lead a toast.
The commencement marks the journey’s end for 1,064 cadets but the word itself denotes a beginning or a start. Although cadet life is over, Geary said the significance of not only the commencement but the entire time spent at West Point is about a beginning.
“The whole experience wasn’t meant to simply get a college degree, but to begin a life of service and we’ve chosen to do that as second lieutenants,” he said. “The commencement is aptly phrased because we’ve spent 47 months preparing to start our lives as officers once we pin on those bars.”
Geary knows that the Corps as normal without him and 1,063 of his classmates. Even as they were celebrated this week with family and friends abound, hundreds of cadets were sweating it out in training at Camp Buckner.
The members of the Class of 2014 raise their right hands for the commissioning oath before thousands of families and invited guests May 28 at Michie Stadium.
Photo by Kathy Eastwood/USMA PAO
The bar pinning and oath ceremony for 2nd Lt. James Anderson occurred in front of Washington Statue following the Class of 2014 graduation ceremony.
Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO Xxxx.
“You know, sure, we’ve been there and done that, but I actually value most what cadets are doing out there right now,” Geary said. “Cadet Leader Development Training (CLDT) was a real gut check for me; it shows you can do even more than you think. Just thinking about the cadets out there now, I kind of know how the old grads feel when they come back and reminisce about their Buckner. You see the look in their eyes like, ‘I remember this, and now it’s someone else’s turn.’ I’m starting to feel that now.”
The words “carry on” define much of the West Point experience for Geary, meaning that no matter what challenges he encountered along the way, it’s necessary to find a way not only persevere but to thrive under the pressure.
“For some it might have been like the flowers bloomed under each foot step, but I’m not one of those people,” he said. “I definitely had some struggles and got through them. I carried on, and when others had problems, I helped carry them too. One of the things I’ll take away from West Point is that if you want to succeed, you can. You just have to carry on.”