What to say about 50ths: they are quite a milestone when you think about it. Something I had associated with very old people!
But it didn't seem that way once I was involved in one. Maybe because I am in good health. I am still working, though not full time. I don't feel I have lost too many steps.
At the Reunion it was pretty clear that some people had aged better than others. Certainly the number of participants in the two mile "Fun Run" has declined to maybe a dozen diehards. I have been there, though this year a sinus infection sidelined me. Some classmates had clear physical degradation like old friend Skip McMichael. He had a cancerous chunk of hip taken out and only gets along now with a cane. However, he is as sharp and perceptive as ever. Then there was another old friend, and former football star, Pat Donnelly. Pat looked great but he is in the first stages of dementia - quite sad.
Then there was a big group who had gotten heavy, a quite normal thing for Americans of any age but particularly for those over 60. I tend not to be sympathetic. One nice thing about aging, however good or badly one does it, is that one quickly can still identify old friends once they smile. Somehow this brings out their inner self and recognition is easy and familiar. Most of my good friends looked pretty good. They have taken care of themselves. It shows.
These are people I keep in touch with though often only via Christmas cards. So it was nice to have some one to one time to get a deeper connection. Those who I most wanted to see I got to sit with in our Friday black tie evening. Our Reunion organizer gave us the option of putting together a table of ten (five couples) we quickly put a table together and then, as part of the lead in to the Reunion, each of us at our table wrote a brief "Reminisce" about our time at the Academy and the ensuing fifty years. This turned out to be doubly nice. It gave each of us the opportunity to think about the Academy experience and how it had influenced our lives, and it also gave each of us a sense of our other friends' lives in ways most of us did not know.
One person started his Reminisce with that famous opening paragraph of the Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." ending with "It was the winter of despair, we had everything before us." We knew immediately that he was talking of our time at the Academy.
Another organized his essay around "Findings" such as "my classmates were better prepared than I" "Life sometimes deals an unfair card, Plebe year helps" and several other findings of wisdom and humor. Each Reminiscence was unique, insightful, and brought us together, partly because of the shared experiences of those four years at Annapolis.
The Reunion itself is always built on three foundations: the Friday Parade (known to Academy types as a "P-Rade" - not sure why), a memorial service for those classmates who have died, and a Saturday football game.
The P-Rade is nice because it reminds us of our youthful selves, and, for me, I love the marching music. That music never fails to take me back in a most positive way. The football game is, of course, a spectacle and a rite. This year Navy has a particularly good team. This simply enhanced the enjoyment. During a break in the game our class dedicated a new "Bill the Goat" statue in the end zone of Navy - Marine Corps Stadium. The statue is impressively large and ferocious - looking, much in contrast to the real goat. Bill the XXXIV is a quiet, distinguished looking-goat.
The best and most moving part of the Reunion was the Memorial Service. As it was our 50th we were allowed to use Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall is the most beautiful hall at the Academy, rich in gold gilding and in history. The Hall commemorates Naval and Marine Corps heroes and includes Commodore Peary's famous "Don't give up the ship" ensign. The Hall also has plaques listing those who have died in every Academy Class.
The other class conducting a Memorial Service there was the Class of 1990. They have lost 12 of their class of some 850 graduates. The Class of 1965 has lost 131 of our 801 graduates. Of those 7 were killed in action in Vietnam and another 16 were killed in the line of duty. Our Memorial Service was a wonderful recognition of many friends and many good memories. It was solemn yet joyful. We closed with the Navy Hymn: "Eternal Father, strong to save whose arm has blessed the mighty wave..." and ends "Hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea."
Thus did the fellowship of the Class of 1965's 50th Reunion close. It was memorable