'Class of 2012, you may don your rings'
August 24, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 24, 2011) -- With storm clouds hovering over the Class of 2012 Ring Ceremony Aug. 19, Chaplain Edson Wood was approached more than once to put in a good word for a pleasant event. Each time, he would reply jovially, "I'm in sales, not management."
Perhaps his invocation was enough to delay the rain just long enough for hundreds of families and guests to gather around Trophy Point Amphitheater to watch the firsties don their class rings for the first time.
"We recognize that each West Point ring tells the story of the wearer's deepest sense of achievement, of the eternal values of the academy and the bond of unity which binds each graduate and West Point until the end of time," Wood said during the invocation.
The class ring, a tradition believed to have started at the U.S. Military Academy, and its ceremony has come to define the senior class, much like the Affirmation Ceremony does for the junior class. Class of 2012 Cadet Isaac Dudley, the Ring and Crest Committee chairman, addressed his colleagues and invited guests during the ceremony.
"The moment you place the ring on your finger should be a moment you remember forever," Dudley said. "It not only solidifies your place in the Long Gray Line, but it also allows you to grip hands with those members who have come before you."
The ring itself is symbolic of the class about to join the Long Gray Line. Beginning with the Class of 2002, it has become a West Point tradition to melt down the donated rings of graduates and combine the gold into the rings of future classes.
"It connects us to all the old grads and it is something that West Pointers for over 100 years have and will have in common with one another," Class of 2012 Cadet Stephen Lask said. "It represents our journey together and all the hardships we have faced as a team."
The ring ceremony, Class of 2012 Cadet Sam Wharton said, probably ranks second in terms of significance to a West Point cadet after Acceptance Day when they join the Corps of Cadets.
"The ring ceremony holds a very special place in the heart of every West Point cadet and officer as a sign of that relationship and their achievements here," Wharton said.
Class of 2012 Cadet Kyle Zimmerman said the Ring Ceremony is a celebration of what the class has achieved until this point, but the days ahead, like Branch Night and Post Night, will represent their futures. Lask called it a rite of passage.
"(It's) one that represents the culmination of our journey here toward becoming an officer. It reminds us that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we are so close to accomplishing our goals and starting our lives," Lask said.
It recognizes not only their accomplishments but also responsibilities.
"I know that each time I look down at my ring, I think of my accomplishments but also the enormous responsibility that it symbolizes," Class of 2012 Cadet Joseph Amoroso, 1st Regiment commander, said. "It is a pinnacle event for our class especially, because the weight of our motto "For more than ourselves" is like the constant weight of our rings that we will carry for the rest of our lives in service to the nation."
John Carroll arrived hours early to get prime seating for the ceremony, and took a moment to search among the markers on the empty field for his son's company.
"This is a milestone for them, having gotten through three years of West Point," Carroll said. "The ring has always been a big symbol of West Point leadership and today shows that they've earned that mark."
His son, Class of 2012 Cadet John "Beau" Carroll, is the Company C commander in 1st Regiment--a position he worked hard to earn, Carroll said.
"He's got a lot on his plate now with that responsibility. He's trying to do a good job with that while maintaining his academics," Carroll said. "There's going to be a little bit more stress this year than he had before, but he can handle it. That's what comes with leadership."
Cadets have the option of customizing their rings--everything from size, stone selection and color. Carroll said his son took a conservative approach to his design.
"Some may go for a lot of flash, but John wanted more of a conservative style which is more like his personality," he said. "He's been looking forward to finally getting it."
Amoroso personalized his ring with a poignant quote.
"I had a portion of a quote by William Penn inscribed on the inside of the ring: 'Let me do it now.' It means that I have one life to live, one shot at doing good things for others," Amoroso said. "The ring will always remind me to do the best I can for others now, because I might not get the chance later."