The Blue and Gold Never Gets Old

On Friday, May 23 of this year, 982 young men and women comprising the grand and glorious U. S. Naval Academy Class of 2003 gleefully tossed their hats into the overcast Annapolis sky to celebrate the end of their "four years by the Bay." What thoughts were going through the minds of these future military leaders at that moment? Were they reflecting on the inspiring words of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had just given the commencement speech? We doubt it. Were they contemplating their first duty assignment? Probably not. Or were they thinking of the parties which were about to get underway? Now, we're getting close. But we'll bet that not a single new ensign or second lieutenant was thinking about his or her class reunion coming up in just five years.

There were, however, at least two people who were already giving some thought to that gathering in 2008---Andrea Campbell and Jean Martini of the Naval Academy Alumni Association. These two ladies work with all the "grand and glorious" classes to plan and execute reunions and to insure that these events achieve the standards and meet the satisfaction of the alumni involved. Andrea is the manager of the "3 C's" which means classes, chapters and clubs; Jean is the reunion coordinator. When you consider that there are usually 13 "major" class reunions each year-from the fifth to the 65th---you can imagine how busy these ladies must be.

By major reunion, they mean classes which graduated in a year ending in a 3 or an 8 in 2003. Generally, reunions take place in five-year intervals, but that is not to say that other classes do not take the opportunity to get together, particularly during football season. Most classes hold their reunions right here in Annapolis, but that is not a hard and fast rule. Some classes have "mini-reunions" in different parts of the country.

Jean says that class reunions tend to develop a certain culture. "The fifth reunion is usually not a big deal to many because they have just graduated, are usually still in the service, and often see their classmates in various duty assignments. By the 10th anniversary, things have begun to change. Some classmates have left the service; they have acquired wives and children and are usually well into their careers, whether military or civilian. The 15th anniversary is the one where you can see a real desire on the part of classmates to get together and renew the special bond developed here on the shores of the Severn, and that special spirit just grows and grows."

For many years homecoming used to be the preferred time for class reunions but, in the 1980s, classes began to select "off-weekends" because of the lack of sufficient hotel facilities and crowds in the immediate Annapolis area. They also admit that by spreading the class get-togethers over several weekends they get better attendance and support from the many organizations providing services and materials necessary to make such an event successful.

This year, there is much excitement growing about the literally thousands of people who will be attending the 13 major reunions, starting with the fifth and ending with the 65th. "These events represent a special renewal of friends and family from years gone by. There is a deep sense of uniqueness in these special gatherings, probably because there are virtually no other institutions that possess such a strong bond shared through class loyalty," Jean says. "No matter how many years have passed, you can literally see and feel the bond these people have with each other. That's why they return to Annapolis."

Andrea says they have actually conducted 70th and 75th class reunions. She recalls with fondness the first 75th reunion celebrated in 2001 for the Class of 1926 . At the time, it was believed there were only 10 members of that class (which graduated 683) still alive, so it was up to their children and grandchildren to carry on the brotherhood and sisterhood that had grown over the years---something they were quite willing to do.

"I started out with five people," says retired Army Brig. Gen. Ward LeHardy of Kilmarnock, Va. "Now, I have a list of about 900 names, all related to the Class of 1926." Gen. LeHardy's father, Louis "Diz" LeHardy, a member of the Class of '26, was killed in November 1942 while serving aboard the USS San Francisco in the battle of Guadalcanal.

Mary Gale Buchanan of Annapolis (better known as M.G. to her many friends) says, "This was the first time in Academy history that sons, daughters and family members came from all over the country and abroad to honor their fathers." M.G.'s father, Charles Buchanan, graduated in 1926.

The Class of 1932 celebrated their 70th reunion in 2002; the class of 1934 is planning their 70th for next year. As one member of the Class of '32 says, "The Blue and Gold never gets old."

Recently, the alumni association, in conjunction with the superintendent's office, has established a program called "A Link in the Chain." This program pairs up current classes with their predecessors of 50 years ago. The aforementioned Class of 1953 has been linked to the just-graduated class of 2003 since their plebe year. They have participated in many class events and showed their support in numerous ways. When the men and women of 2003 received their "butter bars" (the gold bar indicating the rank of Navy ensign or Marine second lieutenant), they were inscribed 1953-2003 as a permanent reminder of the link between these two classes. Andrea says, "You can bet when the class of 2003 gets around to holding their fifth-year reunion, members of the class of 1953 will be there, too." Such is the stuff of Naval Academy class reunions.

Tom Roskelly, a keen observer of the Annapolis scene, lives in Eastport with his wife, January, two dogs and an (appropriately) blue and gold macaw.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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