Yearling earn winter weekend to celebrate
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 12, 2014) — It’s tradition at the U.S. Military Academy to designate one weekend each year for cadets to celebrate as a class.
For the second-year cadets, the Yearling Winter Weekend isn’t highlighting the 800-plus days until graduation, as 500th Night or 100th Night recognizes those milestone countdowns. Class of 2016 Cadet Eugene Coleman III said this particular weekend celebrates their collective accomplishments while also looking ahead to the future.
“As a class, we have finished our first semester as team leaders and we’re beginning our second,” Coleman, class president said. “Our first semester posed many new challenges, such as taking care of our plebes and molding them into the best cadets possible, wrestling with the Dean and trying to beat him and Physics on top of our other extracurricular activities.”
After a semester filled with days of graded activities and sleepless nights, Coleman said the winter leave, and now, the Yearling Winter Weekend, has allowed the class to recharge so they can finish the academic year strong.
“I am very proud of how well we have performed as a class and our willingness to help each other in a true brother-and-sisterhood I believe will be hard to replicate anywhere else,” he said. “Our class has never stopped and will continue to move forward together.”
Coleman describes the Class of 2016 as “the hardest working and hardest playing class at West Point.”
USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. didn’t dispute the claim as he remarked how proud the academy leadership was of their commitment, work ethic and accomplishments.
“So let tonight serve not only to remind you of all that you have accomplished, but reflect on what is ahead of you and the goals you still need to achieve,” Caslen said.
It was nearly a year ago when the cadets gathered inside Washington Hall during Plebe-Parent Weekend and unveiled their class crest which bears their motto, “With Honor We Lead.”
The Benny Havens Band provided the music for an evening of dancing for the Class of 2016 and guests inside the Eisenhower Hall Ballroom Feb. 8.
As class president, Class of 2016 Cadet Eugene Coleman III had the honor of presenting the guest speaker of the Yearling Winter Weekend Banquet, retired Lt. Gen. George A. Crocker, with a cadet saber. The Class of 1966 graduate is a member of the yearlings’ 50-Year Affiliate Class.
“I love your class motto because it reminds us of the mission that faces us when we graduate from West Point—to lead America’s sons and daughters in the toughest of circumstance and doing the nation’s toughest work that they expect of us,” Caslen said. “And in order to do that, we have to learn the sacred trust of not only the men and women in our care, we have to earn the trust of the American people.”
Retired Lt. Gen. George A. Crocker, a 1966 USMA graduate who served two combat tours in Vietnam, led a battalion during the rescue operation in Grenada and commanded from company to division level in the 82nd Airborne, was guest speaker.
A member of the yearlings’ 50-Year Affiliate Class, Crocker also spoke about the class crest which makes symbolic reference to the Class of 1966.
“When you unveiled your class crest and there were six stripes and six stars for ‘66, we were blown away,” Crocker said. “What an unselfish, wonderful act to reach back in history and include us in your legacy.”
Crocker also told the cadets the eyes of the Class of 1966 are upon them and they’re proud.
“On behalf of the Class of 1966, well done,” he said.
Crocker said that the admiration and trust of the American people is not a given simply by wearing a military uniform. It must be earned because the true power of the military isn’t found in artillery, tanks and weapons but in the will of the American people.
“In my mind, it’s simple. You do it with honorable service to the nation, to our Constitution and to our Army,” he said.
The festivities moved to Eisenhower Hall where yearlings and their guests made introductions to several USMA senior leaders at the receiving lines before entering the ballroom for the hop. The evening of music and dancing was highlighted with the Benny Havens Band playing the Class of 2016 song, which the noncommissioned officers from the West Point Band created to commemorate the achievements of this class and the great work they will continue to do in the years ahead.
A photo set is available at www.flickr.com/photos/west_point/sets/72157640785032113/.