Each year on the Tuesday before graduation, the U.S. Military Academy honors the members of the Long Gray Line by laying a wreath at the base of the Col. Sylvanus Thayer statue that overlooks the Plain.
The wreath laying is traditionally performed by the oldest graduate in attendance and precedes the alumni review parade. This year, there was no parade and the ceremony took on a different form as West Point adjusted to the new conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The wreath laying was originally scheduled for May 19 but was delayed a few weeks along with the graduation ceremony, which will take place Saturday.
The delay caused a fortuitous occurrence where the wreath was laid at the Thayer statue on the 235th birthday of the man who is known as the “Father of Military Academy.”
“Knowing what Col. Thayer has done for the academy and specifically for the dean side and the impact that he had, it’s only fitting that we could come out here and celebrate him on his birthday,” First Captain Daine Van de Wall said.
The ceremony was more intimate than in years past with the large crowd of hundreds of Old Grads replaced by a small party that included Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, West Point Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point Association of Graduates President and CEO Todd Browne and Van de Wall, who filled in for the oldest graduate and placed the wreath. They were joined by members of the West Point Band, which filled in for the cadet choir that typically performs at the ceremony.
Many of the traditional graduation week events have been canceled or adjusted this year due to the global pandemic, including the ceremony which will take place on the Plain this year for the first time since 1977.
Although Tuesday’s wreath laying was performed differently than it is traditionally, Van de Wall said it was still important to hold it because it was a chance to show that no matter the circumstances, West Point and the Army will continue fighting and performing their duties.