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Graduation activities begin the Tuesday prior to Graduation day and commencement is held in Michie Stadium on the Saturday morning of that week. This very special week will be full of activities and the Academy does an excellent job of keeping families well informed about what will be happening. The first official information will arrive to Firstie parents in January. This is an advance notice letter after that more information will be sent approximately 2 months before Graduation in May. As we need a lot of advance planning time to make travel arrangements from Alaska I suggest that you check the previous year's itineraries that are available online so that you can make your plans well in advance.

As always, the USMA web site will have a lot of helpful information and the best place to fine that is in the "Events and Attractions" page. From there you may find information on the entire Graduation schedule. Events don't change much from year to year so checking there will be helpful. I have included the schedule for the 2008 graduation at the bottom of this page.

If you are unable to spend the entire week at West Point plan to arrive in time for the Graduation Review on Friday morning. As with all large events at West Point you will need to make your hotel reservations years in advance. The Thayer Hotel is already booked for the graduation class of 2011.

Invitations: Firsties will order their announcements early in the spring. As with all things at the Academy - the deadline must be met. The Cadet Bookstore has more information on this and you may contact them at 845.938.5193. Your cadet is the only one able to order the invitations and the payment for them will be deducted from their account. All cadets will appreciate assistance with knowing how many invitations to order as well as the addresses of the recipients and help with addressing them is always very welcome.

Graduation Review: With the end of the graduation ceremony the journey is complete. Your son or daughter is now a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. They have had a long and rewarding experience during their four years at West Point and the entire graduation week is designed to commemorate exactly how special their accomplishment is. The Graduation Review is a very moving experience. It will be the last time that the Firstie cadets will march onto The Plain as a member of the Corps of Cadets and I'm sure many will remember the first time they marched in formation on R-Day short four years ago as well as the first time they marched onto The Plain, joined the Corps of Cadets and were accepted as Plebes on Acceptance Day.

For that event the Plebes were accepted into the Corps. Now the exact opposite happens. The Corps lines up in formation on The Plain. The band plays "Auld Lang Syne" to salute the Firsties as it parades back and forth across the length of the assembled Corps. On order the Firsties step out from their company formations and march away from the Corps, toward the bleachers and form in a "long gray line" in front of their families and friends. The perform a "face about" and now the "review" the three remaining classes who salute them as the parade past the graduating class. The Firsties are now part of the reviewing party.

There are only three times that a cadet will face the barracks in a review:

  1. as a Plebe on Acceptance Day
  2. as a graduating senior in the Graduation Review
  3. as an alumnus

For this even cadets usually receive 4 tickets for the reviewing stands. Parents are seated by sections in front of their Cadet's company so that you will be best able to see your son or daughter.

Graduation Banquet: The last formal banquet your Cadet will attend as a cadet at USMA. This is an occasion where cadets are in their full dress regalia and their guests are similarly in their best as well. Three tickets are usually given to each cadet. If your cadet needs more they should try to obtain them as early as possible. Because this is such a unique experience an overflow banquet is planned in the West Point Club and your Firstie may purchase tickets for additional guests for this banquet. Even with this banquet there are only 400 seats so have your cadet purchase these first come first served tickets as soon as possible. The overflow banquet will provide a live video feed form Washing Hall for the banquet so that guests may see and hear the speakers. After the banquet a dance will be held at Eisenhower Hall.

Graduation Ceremony: The ceremony is appropriate for the responsibilities that these young men and women are about to take on. It is impressive, it is solemn. There will be several dozen Distinguished Graduates who receive their diplomas first the rest of the Corps will follow these presentations and the cadets will come forward by Regiment. After the awarding of the diplomas the Commandant of Cadets gives the Commissioning Oath to the graduates. The First Captain then announces "Class Dismissed" and the entire graduating class will toss their white caps high into the air.

A wonderful and nearly final one for each graduating class is the West Point tradition of allowing the children in attendance to gather on the edge of the field to wait for the "hat toss." As soon as the hats go up the children rush onto the field and grab their treasure. Many cadets will have written special notes to the children and placed them inside the hats to make the "treasure" even more special.

Tickets: Each cadet will receive 8 tickets for the Graduation but more may be requested. The earlier that the cadet requests the tickets the greater the chance that they will receive them. Otherwise, cadets can acquire additional tickets from other Firsties who will not need all of their tickets. Unlimited numbers of non-ticket holders will be admitted to the stadium and will be distributed the morning of graduation at the ticket gates.

Arriving: There is usually one gate reserved for parents with passes and guests without tickets must use another gate. Plan on being at Michie Stadium around 0700. Dress comfortably, bring a cushion, a lights jacket, a camera, binoculars and maybe even a snack and drink as you will be sitting there for over 3 hours. Cadets will arrive at the stadium one/half hour before the ceremony. Find out where your cadet will be seated. They are grouped according to companies and each graduate is assigned to a specific row and seat. Set up a meeting place for after graduation.

After Graduation: Two more traditions will occur following graduation. Simply put the new Second Lieutenant is to give the first enlisted person who salutes him/her a newly minted silver dollar. Buy the coin and take it with you. Here at home it will cost 8-9 dollars but in the West Point area it may run around 25 dollars because of the demand. Your cadet will want to have this on them before the graduation ceremony so they may present it immediately to the NCO who renders salute to them.

Bar Pinning: After graduation the new 2nd Lieutenants will, for the first time, change into the Class a Uniform. Then they will meet an officer who is charged with presiding over a bar-pinning ceremony. This officer may be their TAC officer or an instructor or a relative who is in the military. The bar-pinning ceremony occurs at the place of the Lieutenant's choosing and during this ceremony the officer will re-administer the Oath of Office, then "pin on" the new gold brass Second Lieutenant "butter bars." Take pictures because you probably won't be able to attend many promotion ceremonies after this time.

Clearing Post: The last responsibility now before them is to "clear post" by removing all of their items from their rooms, sign out of their company, pick up their final paperwork in Washington Hall, return any issued items and officially check out of West Point. Plan on this process taking 3-4 hours so while they are busy taking care of their final post responsibilities think about heading over to Grant Hall, or into Highland Falls to relax a bit. If you have the preplanning down you may even consider taking a picnic to graduation and heading down by the water for a final picnic on post while you wait.

GIft Suggestions:

  • "Capitol Flag" - currently these are available for free from Representative Young and our Senators also have them available for a small charge. A nice certificate comes with each flag. Be sure and order these early as it takes 4-6 weeks to get the flags and graduation times are especially busy.
  • Cadet Saber - available for the Cadet Store
  • Red Sash - - available for the Cadet Store
  • Class Pistol - available for the Cadet Store - a limited edition pistol is produced each year for the graduating class. The gun has marking showing the class year and it is sold well below normal retail. Orders for these are usually taken at the end of the first semester through a class representative. Information on these will come out in November
  • Uniforms - if you want to help your cadet with obtaining the uniforms they will now be wearing it is probably easiest to simply deposit money into their account. The money to pay for the uniforms will have been taken out in November or December. To pay for the uniforms make out a check to "Treasurer, USMA" with a not to deposit it into your cadets account.

Leave: A leave of usually 30 to 60 days will be granted to your cadet. The length of time will depend on training requirement for the OBC [Officer Basic Course] The regulations allow a one-time, non-chargeable leave upon commissioning of up to 60 days. The will probably use this time spending it with family and friends, preparing equipment they will need for their first duty station, maybe to do some traveling, and hopefully to relax before they start their Army career.

Typical Graduation Week Activities


10:20 a.m.                   Alumni March & Exercises                 Diagonal Walk & Thayer Statue

11 a.m.                        Alumni Review                                    The Plain


1 – 2:30 p.m.               Superintendent’s Reception for          Quarters 100 Garden                                 Parents & Guests of 1st Regiment

3 – 4:30 p.m.               Superintendent’s Reception for          Quarters 100 Garden                                 Parents & Guests of 2nd Regiment


11 a.m.                        Superintendent’s Award Review         The Plain

1 – 2:30 p.m.              Superintendent’s Reception for          Quarters 100 Garden                                  Parents & Guests of 3rd Regiment

3 – 4:30 p.m.               Superintendent’s Reception for          Quarters 100 Garden                                 Parents & Guests of 4th Regiment

7 p.m.                          Baccalaureate Services                     Various Chapels


10:30 a.m.                   Graduation Parade                              The Plain

7 p.m.                          Graduation Banquet                            Cadet Mess

9 p.m.                          Graduation Hop                                   Eisenhower Hall


7 a.m.                          Gates Open                                        Michie Stadium

10 a.m.                       Graduation Exercise                           Michie Stadium

                                    Bar Pinning Ceremonies                    Various Locations

                                    Following Graduation

The events, dates, times & locations are excellent for planning purposes. Always check with your cadet for the latest information.

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