As 2023 comes to an end, WPAOG would like to recap some of the most memorable moments of the year!
Thayer and Nininger Awards
Our first memorable moment is WPAOG awarding the prestigious Thayer Award and Nininger Award to the 2023 recipients this past fall.
On September 21, the HON Elizabeth Dole received the 2023 Sylvanus Thayer Award. Dole used her Thayer Award acceptance speech to champion the 5.5 million Americans currently serving as a caregiver to a wounded soldier. She also reminded the Corps of Cadets assembled in the mess hall of what it means to be a servant leader—“to confront adversity, make sacrifices, face suffering, and take on the challenges that others find too complicated, too difficult, or too dangerous.”
On October 26, WPAOG awarded LTC McKinley Wood ’01 the 2023 Alexander R. Nininger Award for Valor at Arms. His speech emphasized his “I will never quit” and “I don’t know how to quit” attitude. On April 6-7, 2003, then First Lieutenant Wood displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy. According to the citation for the Silver Star he received for his actions on these dates, “With complete disregard for his own personal safety, First Lieutenant Wood repeatedly exposed himself to intense and accurate enemy fire while directing his platoon’s fires and maneuver…His heroic efforts resulted in the destruction of numerous enemy tanks, APCs, and RPG teams during the attack to isolate Baghdad.”
Class of 2024 Ring Memorial Ceremony
Cadets from the Class of 2024 received their West Point class rings on August 25, marking another milestone in their Firstie year. Members of their 50-Year Affiliate Class of 1974 were in attendance, as well as several ring donors who donated their West Point class rings to the Ring Melt. On August 26, following the Ring Run, WPAOG celebrated the First Class cadets with a champagne brunch, recognizing this special milestone in a cadet’s 47-month experience.
The annual West Point tradition of the Ring Memorial Ceremony tangibly connects the Long Gray Line through the gold in their West Point class rings. A total of 807 rings have been donated to the Class Ring Memorial Program, including 67 that were added to the gold that was melted into the Class of 2024’s rings.
A class ring is much more than a piece of jewelry; it is a connection to the Corps and the Long Gray Line for all eternity—symbolic of their devotion to “Duty, Honor, Country” and a tradition that has continued at West Point since 1835.
The Ring Melt for the Class of 2025 is scheduled to take place at West Point on January 19, 2024.
Earned Not Given: Welcoming the Class of 2027 to West Point
WPAOG welcomed more than 560 families from the Class of 2027 on June 25 for the Pre R-Day Ice Cream Social. Parents met with WPAOG staff members and learned about the resources available to them. The Class of 1977 also attended the event and shared last-minute tips with Cadet Candidates.
On June 26, Cadet Basic Training (CBT) began with Reception Day for the 1,250+ who reported to join the West Point Class of 2027. During R-Day, cadet candidates began the process of becoming part of the Corps of Cadets and future Army officers. WPAOG and the 50-Year Affiliate Class of 1977 were present throughout the day to welcome the cadet candidates and their families into the West Point family.
After successfully finishing CBT, the Class of 2027 completed a road march from Lake Frederick to West Point. Old Grads joined for the March Back, including grads from the 50-Year Affiliation Class of 1977. The new cadets unveiled their newly created class motto, “Earned Not Given.” The Class of 2027 was officially accepted into the Corps of Cadets during the Acceptance Day parade on August 12.
Graduation Week for the Class of 2023
In May 2023, WPAOG honored past graduates as well as celebrating the newest members of the Long Gray Line. On May 23, prior to the alumni review, the oldest graduate in attendance, BG (R) Samuel Lessey ’45, USAF, laid the wreath during the annual Alumni Wreath Laying Ceremony. Members of the Classes of 1948, 1953, 1968, and 1973 attended the alumni review. The 2023 Distinguished Graduate was awarded to HON James B. Peake, MD, LTG (Ret) ’66, LTG (R) David F. Melcher ’76, Mr. Richard Dalzell ’79, Mrs. Marene Allison ’80, GEN (R) Daniel Bartlett Allyn ’81, and GEN (R) Austin S. (Scott) Miller ’83. This annual award is bestowed upon West Point graduates whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.”
On May 27, the Class of 2023 graduated from West Point and was commissioned into the US Army as second lieutenants. Members of the 50-Year Affiliate Class of 1973 were in attendance to present graduates with their 2LT bars, each engraved with “73-23.”
Army Beats Navy!
Army beat Navy, claiming the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy! For the first time in the 124-year history of the Army-Navy Game, the Army West Point Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen squared off in Foxborough, MA, in Gillette Stadium. Before the thrilling victory, WPAOG hosted graduates and their families for the annual Go Army Tailgate. Attendees enjoyed performances by the Benny Havens Band, the Cadet Spirit Band, and of course, tons of food! The Black Knights came away with a thrilling 17-11 win.