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02 Nov

First, I want to say hi to a LOT of new followers. Not sure why, but my Facebook page is really getting a lot of likes lately. If you are one of those people, THANK YOU.

Just recently, I returned from my 25th US Naval Academy reunion.  It was wonderful to the point of being surreal, and to be honest a lot of the events left me without words.  But since this is a blog, I have to try.

One thing that always struck me about reunions is how happy everyone is to see people that they weren’t all that close to when they were actually in the school/squadron/etc.  I had too much time on my hands, so I sat down to think about why.  Here’s what I came up with, specifically anchored to my USNA experience.

In the summer of 1990, twelve hundred and thirty two men and women (thanks for the number, Julie Rosati Vida, another one of my outstanding classmates) started at the Naval Academy with the class of 1994.  Our first day was called “Induction Day,” or “I-day,” and it can best be described as being on a fast roller coaster that tears you away from your family while simultaneously exposing you to a bad haircut and strangers who dress you in ill-fitting clothes.  There were two sizes: too big and too small.  We were poked, prodded, yelled at, and moved through a system designed to outfit us as “plebes” and at the same time introduce us to USNA culture, politely guided by several handpicked upperclass with volume set to “ten.”

Almost four years later 939 of us were left to graduate and be commissioned as officers in the United States military.  We received our commissions, threw our caps in the air, and shotgunned out to the world.   When we left on May 25, 1994, the biggest thing we had in common was that we all spent four years in that asylum on the Severn River.  Twenty five years later, in addition to time served at the Academy, we all have careers, families, duty stations, and memories of those lost along the way (at our memorial service, 20 names were read).  Over 500 of us returned to Annapolis for our reunion, one of the biggest reunions in Academy history.  The knucklehead across the hall from me that made me insane with his antics is now a lifelong brother, with a relationship forged at Navy but tested in the world.  I couldn’t wait to see all my classmates, even the ones I didn’t know, because of that shared bond.  I spent an amazing amount of time talking to classmates that I barely knew while in school.

Of course, the weekend wasn’t just noble and upstanding, with remembrances of courageous acts of valor.  It was also an opportunity for much more seasoned men and women to remember their youth, and acts not necessarily of valor but memorable just the same.  Funny thing about service academy grads; we tell stories NO ONE ELSE finds funny, but we think are hysterical.   That should tell you a bit about what kind of place it is.

The weekend started with a party at a local establishment that was a favorite when we were at the Academy. So much a favorite that three of our classmates BOUGHT IT years after we graduated, and closed it down for a private party for our class.  All we could eat and drink for the awesome price of $19.94!  No one got sloppy drunk, no fights, just kindness and celebration of a shared bond few understand and fewer experience.

Next morning was a memorial service to honor the classmates no longer with us, for whatever reason.  Some died in service to our country.  Some just died.  We mourned them all the same.

That night was a reception to again celebrate our unique bond, followed the next day by a football game and tailgate party culminating in a plebe kicking a 48 yard field goal as time expired.  Those familiar with Navy football held their breath and were haunted by two words:  WIDE RIGHT, until the kick sailed through, the cannon thundered, and we cheered like we were still mids.  I have never heard our alma mater “Blue and Gold” sung with such feeling (although I will admit I have heard it sung less offkey…).

As a class, we are awesome.  Some served for five years and moved on, some are still serving to this day as ship commanding officers, base commanders, and other important military leaders.  We civilians own businesses, hold political offices, write books, mentor our communities, and do a whole host of notable things.  More importantly, we love spouses and raise children under a flag that we all at one time or another defended. 

Individually, we are pretty cool.  Together, we are awesome.

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