For me West Point represents an ideal, a special place, a special experience, something that is a source of great pride. We not only were part of it as Cadets for four years, but we remain part of it forever, as members of The Long Gray Line.
Four years at West Point was not a typical college experience. It was extraordinarily rigorous, regimented, and demanding – academically, physically, mentally and emotionally.
There were good times – football weekends, Army-Navy games, athletic events, hops, company intramurals, Buckner summer (even though very physically demanding, I enjoyed it), First Class trip, classmate camaraderie, and many others. I didn’t even mind the parades (I’m in the minority on that), and was very proud to be part of the Color Guard in the fall of First Class year. There were also the tough, grinding experiences – Beast Barracks, Plebe year, gloom period, punishment tours, reveille, inspections, regimented life and other inconvenient obligations of being a cadet. But then, they were meant to be tough – they were part of the experience, part of the character molding, part of the making of a West Pointer. Whether enjoyable or unpleasant, all of those experiences were integral in shaping me and my future in a significant and positive way.
During the earlier years after graduation I did not give much thought or reflection to my years at West Point. My focus was initially on fulfilling the demands of being an Army Officer. After my service obligation, I focused on my civilian career. It was not until my first reunion at the 15 year mark, that I began to reflect on the profound impact West Point had on shaping my life, and the extraordinary influence of that experience. That contemplation and realization has only deepened as the years roll on. The camaraderie, classmate bonds, and the unique, special, and intense experiences we all shared are things I genuinely treasure. Very few young men and women ever have the opportunity for this kind of special experience. I am thankful that I had that opportunity, and am very proud to be a member of The Long Gray Line.
Wayne McSwiggan says
Fellow ’69 back rank color guard by right of being Bn Sgt Maj 2nd detail and Dave Merhar’s profile against marching! 3rd detail… such a deal – file closer and a fraction of the parades!
Interesting moments back there such as wrestling with the colors trying to disarm us by wrapping around our sabers during the national anthem.
Sorry that they did away with the back rank – always thought it was cool – wish they’d reinstate.
Wayne McSwiggan, F-2
Patrick Porter says
Yes, I agree – that back rank added some flair, especially during those situations where we had to reverse direction of march. It was a cool move, looking like everyone was headed off in different directions, then it all came back together facing the other way. By the way, I found the picture above in an old picture box – that’s actually our first detail unit – me on the end in the back rank. Thanks for the comments.