R Day for the Class of “71 was 3 July 1967. Suffice it to say, we New Cadets who survived Beast Barracks did not experience the “Summer of Love.”
Our summer on the banks of the Hudson was crammed with activities at breakneck speed from reveille to taps and beyond. We learned the 4th Class System, drill, PT, military courtesy, drill, screenings for all academic subjects, marksmanship, squad tactics, clothing formations, more drill, special inspections, the Days, Plebe Poop, and how to eat a square meal. Our days were full, and we were focused on making it to reorg week and acceptance into the Corps of Cadets.
Events during the summer of ’67 washed over the United States like a tsunami. Inside our ‘rockbound highland home”, we hardly noticed a ripple. Race riots ravaged many of our cities. Anti-war demonstrations, civil rights fights, horrific casualties in Viet Nam, hippies, drugs, free love, weird clothing, flower children, and civil disobedience became commonplace. We didn’t have access to a lot of news, so we missed a lot of this. We did have access to a West Point qualification system that required our undivided attention if we were to survive. Most of us did. By September, we were Plebe 4th Classman in the Corps of Cadets and proud of it.
So, the 1967 “Summer of Love” seen around the United States was a whole lot different than the summer “of beast” we “new-cadets” saw at West Point. People who were watching us that summer probably didn’t know they were witnessing an event that would shape history. They saw the birth of “The Professionals,” the Class of 1971. This group of men coalesced into a fellowship seldom seen.
Sometimes, during our time at West Point, we Professionals were challenged to commit our lives to a lifetime of public service. Our Class did that. It’s been 54 and a butt years since Beast Barracks, and today, Class of ’71 members are leaders in military, politics, faith, foreign affairs, industry, medicine, law enforcement, technology, science, finance, golf, tourism, and general retirement shenanigans.
The bonds we forged in the 1437 days we lived as brothers at West Point remain unbroken today. We are the professionals, and we keep going like the energizer bunny. Professionally Done, 71. Professionally Done.
Now, its time to share the stories of the history we made.