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