U.S. Military Academy at West Point is set to graduate approximately 1,000 cadets on Saturday, May 25, 2013.
Although cadets can major in such subjects as diverse as English, History, or Political Science, every graduate will receive a Bachelor of Science degree. Additionally, they will be commissioned in the U.S. Army and serve on active duty for a minimum of five years.
In honor of the Long Gray Line, we have uncovered some notable facts about West Point graduation that you may have forgotten and/or that may surprise you:
- The first West Point Graduating Class consisted of two people in 1802.
- The first documented West Point hat toss took place in 1946 at the Field House. Cadets traditionally place pictures, notes, and other items inside their hat. For the 2013 ceremony, children will be positioned on the field during the graduation and will rush the field following the hat toss to secure a hat to take home.
- Michie Stadium, where the 2013 gradation will be held, is named for Dennis M. Michie. He was a member of the West Point Class of 1892 and the captain of the Army Football Team. In July 1898, 1st Lt. Michie was killed in action in San Juan, Cuba.
- The West Point Class of 1963, the 50-year affiliation class for 2013, will present a set of 2nd Lt. bars engraved “63-13” to each graduate after they receive their diplomas. Following the ceremony, the new graduates will, for the first time, change into the Army Service Uniform and attend their bar pinning ceremonies.
- Class President, Cadet Timothy Berry, of Waxhaw, N.C., will present Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel with a cadet saber on behalf of the Class of 2013. Hagel is the is graduation speaker for the Class of 2013.
- Since the first cadets belonged to the artillery and engineers, their uniform consisted of a dark blue cutaway coat with scarlet facings, brass buttons, white or blue waistcoat and tight pantaloons, black leather boots, a large cocked hat with a black cockade and a scarlet feather. In the summer of 1814, a small American Army, led by General Winfield Scott wearing gray, decisively defeated the British in upper Canada. Gray uniforms at once became badges of honor and the Academy decided to utilize the color gray in memory of Scott’s victory. In 1816, the Secretary of War formally approved the use of gray uniforms for the Military Academy in recognition of General Scott and his gallant troops.
- The Goat refers to the last-ranking cadet to graduate. The Firsties donate to the “Goat Fund” (typically a dollar each), which is presented to the Goat on stage during graduation. The Goat usually receives the loudest applause from the class.
- Some notable Goats include: Civil War hero in the Union Army, George Armstrong Custer, Class of 1861; Virginian and Confederate officer George Pickett, Class of 1846; Lt. Powhatan Henry Clarke, Class of 1884 who received the Medal of Honor in 1886.
- West Point was the first school in the U.S. to use rings as a class symbol. The tradition started in 1835 and has been continuous with the exception of 1836 (no rings) and 1879 (cuff links).
- After graduation, West Point tradition continues when Second Lieutenants give a newly minted silver dollar to the first enlisted person who salutes him or her.
What advice and congratulatory messages would you like to share with the West Point Class of 2013? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.