Class crest exemplifies commitment to serve
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 26, 2014) — After the black veil was lifted from the giant crest hovering above her, Class of 2017 Cadet Michelle Golonka, the ring and crest committee chairperson, explained its meaning during the Plebe-Parent Weekend Banquet at Washington Hall March 15.
Here’s the breakdown of its component, according to Golonka:
“There are many components on the crest that signifies importance. I would like to explain what each part represents starting with the eagle.
The eagle is positioned in a way that is not overbearing but still shows that it is there protect the world as it encompasses it without the talons showing.
The eagle has seven wing tips; each wing of the eagle represents the seven continents of the world and how we strive to maintain unity with the world as a whole.
On the handle of a cadet saber, lies the Black Knight helmet. The helmet represents our class as a whole and our cohesion which ultimately signifies that we are one class, regardless of where we came from.
On the banner above the eagle is our class motto. ‘So Others May Dream’ represents the idea that we believe everyone should be able to dream. Our motto is also a reminder that our time at West Point and the service that we are committed to is for others, so that they may live in freedom.
Our flag contains six stars and seven stripes to signify the 50-Year Affiliate Class of 1967. This is done so that we are reminded of those who came before us, and that we are here not only to be the standard but to exceed it as a class. The next significant component of our crest is the globe.
The globe represents that we are dedicated to peace all over the world and recognize that we are a global society and we are not the only entity in the world. Within the globe there is a star where West Point is located.
The star represents the significance of where we are and how the location of West Point is important because it is not like any other place on the earth.
The gold color of the Roman numerals signifies the second lieutenant bars we will soon wear one day. The crest as a whole represents our class as modest, yet dedicated; professional but adorned to selfless service and unity above all as cadets and as future officers of the United States Army.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Daniel R. Jollota speaks to the Class of 2017 on the value of teamwork at the Plebe-Parent Weekend Banquet March 15 inside Washington Hall.
Jollota addresses Class of 2017
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Daniel Jollota has been in the Army for 38 years and said the bonds forged through teamwork remains the driving factor for why he serves.
An Aviator who has deployed in numerous operations, from Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in the Southwest Asia, Jollota addressed the Class of 2017 at the Plebe-Parent Weekend Banquet.
“Your experiences as a cadet has been challenging and the tasks have often been made bearable by the bonds you have made during your short period of time at the academy,” he said. “Based off my experience, when the road is dangerous, the nights are long, the food is cold and the beds are non-existent, it is my fellow Soldiers who I respect and honor and will follow into the unknown. That makes me willing to fight another day. The bond becomes more evident and more significant when you are facing adversity.”
He spoke of his mission in Mogadishu and the events which were captured in the best-selling book and subsequent film, “Black Hawk Down.” Jollota said after the aircraft went down the mission became rescuing those fallen comrades no matter how long it took.
“After the battle there was great speculation over how we spent so much time on the ground extracting our teammates in face of such danger,” Jollota said. “At a time like that, nothing matters more to us than our teammates. Over the years we build a bond forged by shared experiences. That day, we solidified that bond as we fought with, and for, each other’s lives.”
Jollota is currently assigned to the Department of Defense Field Research Activity and participates in numerous National Command Authority-directed contingency missions around the world. He previously served here as the commander of “The Wings of West Point,” the 2nd Aviation Detachment from 2006-2010. His wife Jane, a USMA Class of 1983 graduate, served as the cadet hostess for the Corps of Cadets while stationed in the area. They have two children attending West Point, Sean and Erin, in the Class of 2015 and 2017, respectively.
“Your days ahead will continue to be consumed with managing your complex schedule, deciding where to focus what little time you have,” he said. “There is only so much time in a day. You must work hard to better yourselves and to help your classmates. My wife, Jane, often mentions a motto prevalent when she was a cadet—‘Cooperate and Graduate.’”
Jollota reminded the cadets to never forget the value of teamwork while at West Point and beyond.
“Don’t let a moment pass that you don’t better yourself and help the person on your left and right,” he said. “Your teammates—they will be the reason you fight and will stay engaged and embrace life every day.”
Class of 2017 Cadet Michelle Golonka, the ring and crest committee chairperson, explains the symbolism among the elements in the class crest as it is unveiled for the first time at the Plebe-Parent Weeked Banquet March 15.
Year One, Nearly Done
Plebe-Parent Weekend is also a time for cadets, while being bombarded with questions from visiting family members and guests, to reflect on these first few months at the academy.
The class conducted the Cadet Review on March 15, marching without the guidance of the upper-class cadets. During that, Class of 2017 Cadet Kristi Carrigan, the class president, had memories of Acceptance Day—the first time they marches as a class at West Point.
“That was the last time our entire class marched together with our parents looking on,” Carrigan said at the PPW Banquet. “We’ve truly grown so much since August. I mean, the guys have hair now.”
Since then, they’ve acquired many more memories.
“We’ve supported each other through the tough times in the gas chamber, the long nights preparing for SAMI, tedious Thayer Weeks and seemingly impossible DPE classes,” she said. “But the great times we’ve shared by far outweigh the obstacles we’ve encountered. We’ll remember Tunnel to Towers and the bonfires before big football games; we’ll remember smoking cigars at the Christmas dinner and John Flacco doing the Rocket. We’ll remember the energy our class brings to each and every brief. These are the memories we will be talking about for years to come.”
Class of 2017 Cadet Erin Jollota chats with Sharyn Amoroso, the cadet hostess, before the banquet inside Washington Hall March 15.
Class of 2017 Cadet Erin Jollota said her West Point experience has been developmental and memorable so far.
“It has been a very long year and has taken me a lot to get where I am today,” she said. “However, it is because of my friends and family that I have been able to get through plebe year and enjoy it at the same time.”
Although her parents are quite familiar with West Point—her mother’s a graduate and her father commanded West Point’s 2nd Aviation Detachment—she said her parents are still impressed with her joining the Corps of Cadets. Her father, a jump master, was excited to learn she wants to attend Airborne School this summer. Additionally, her brother is a member of the Class of 2015 so she’s gotten plenty of advice about surviving West Point.
“My mom was basically prepping me for Beast and plebe year from the moment I accepted my appointment,” she said. “Through all the prepping for rucking and knowledge she constantly reminded me to keep a good attitude and find the humor in everything. She reminded me to be able to laugh at myself and find good friends here to help get me through it. My brother has been helping me through plebe year from day one. He is always there for guidance and to help get me out of tough situations. He always reminds me to attempt to fly under the radar, especially as a plebe, and don't let the academy change who you are. I would not have been able to get through this year without my brother especially.”
She sat at the head table with her parents during the Plebe-Parent Weekend banquet, getting a front row seat while her father addressed the Class of 2017 as guest speaker.
“Honestly it was completely nerve-wrecking,” she said. “I hadn't seen my dad in two months and the first day he is back he has to deliver a speech to my entire class. I tried very hard to get him to let me read the speech ahead of time but he wouldn't budge so I had no idea what he was going to say. In the end I'm proud of my dad and the lessons he gave in the speech are words he lives his daily life by.”
During the banquet, U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. recalled the last night at Camp Buckner when the Class of 2017 revealed its motto on Aug. 11, 2013.
“It immediately hit me on the importance of selfless service and humility—two incredibly important traits for leadership and what leaders are all about,” Caslen said. “For a class that has that level of understanding and maturity about what the importance is to serve just says a lot about who you are and what your class is all about.”