Sitting in the stands with his dad watching Army beat Navy in the 2018 Army-Navy Game solidified for Class of 2023 Cadet Ryan Williams that the U.S. Military Academy was where he wanted to attend college.
Saturday, Williams and his classmates had the chance to attend their first Army-Navy Game as members of the Corps of Cadets and take part in the traditions and pageantry they had watched from the stands or on TV in years past.
"Even though the outcome wasn't what we wanted, I still enjoyed the game and the weekend surrounding it with all my friends," Williams said. "I enjoyed the experience and I am excited for next year."
For the majority of the corps, Army-Navy weekend doesn't really start until they march onto the field before the game. For Class of 2023 Cadet Nick Roma, the festivities for his first Army-Navy Game kicked off Friday evening with the annual battle between Army and Navy's Pipes and Drums bands.
Prior to the Army-Navy Gala in the Philadelphia Convention Center, the Pipes and Drums and debate teams hold competitions and then the two academies' cheerleaders and spirit bands hold a battle of the bands and pep rally in the hallway.
Roma and the Pipes and Drums then performed again on the field Saturday as part of the tunnel Army football players ran through onto the field.
"My favorite moment had to be marching with the Pipes and Drums team straight through the Brigade of Midshipmen as they waited for March On," Roma said. "The team was playing for the corps, but the midshipmen had blocked our path as we moved, so our drum major had us strike up the Army Song and continue on through the jeers and taunts. It was all good-natured and it was unforgettable."
The sky was gray for the majority of the day matching the uniform of the corps with only occasional rays of sunshine breaking through.
Temperatures in the 50s and rain that came and went throughout the day led to the traditional long overcoats being replaced with cadet raincoats for March On and much of the game.
But the dreary weather and final score, which saw the U.S. Naval Academy end its three-year losing streak with a 31-7 victory, could not deter the Corps of Cadets or ruin the experience for the Class of 2023 as they attended their first Army-Navy Game as members of the corps.
"The Army-Navy Game was a great experience," Class of 2023 Cadet Jonathan Parham said. "I've been really interested in the games since fourth grade and I've always believed that it's a major landmark in a cadet's career. So, being a part of the Corps of Cadets on game day really cemented the fact that I'd made it to West Point."
The Army-Navy Game is one of the few events on the West Point calendar that brings together almost the entirety of the corps. It serves as the bookend of the fall semester much as graduation does in the spring.
The game is also a time for current cadets to meet and interact with the Old Grads who attend the game from throughout the country and the world.
"The game was more of a social experience than I had expected," Parham said. "The Old Grads had a lot of awesome stories and tales of 'the corps has.' It was really fun to connect with past classes and to see how much has changed throughout the years, and how much has stayed the same."
Despite the score, Williams, Roma and Parham all said the game lived up to the hype they had heard from upperclassmen leading up to it.
Even with the game slowly getting out of reach, the energy from the corps never died down and through the final seconds of the game clock they never stopped supporting their team.
With Army trailing in the fourth quarter, First Captain Class of 2020 Cadet Daine Van de Wall decided to fire up the corps. He had the rabble rousers raise him in the air, ripped off his gray coat revealing a white air cav shirt honoring the 1st Cavalry Division and began to yell. It was that moment and the frenzy that followed within the corps that Williams said stood out as his favorite memory from his first Army-Navy Game as a cadet.
"During this time, an Old Grad watching the game from the stands lowered (his) child down to the corps to cheer with us," Williams said. "It was awesome and really fun to see the kid enjoying the game with all the cadets. The hype surrounding the corps was my favorite part."