Golden Knight to Black Knight

Categories: West Point Magazine, Cadet News, Clubs

By Keith J. Hamel, WPAOG staff

Army West Point’s 17-11 victory over the Midshipmen was not the first Army-Navy Game that Fourth Class Cadet Daniel McKeon ’27 saw while in uniform. Then Sergeant McKeon jumped into the stadium before the 2022 Army-Navy Game as a member of the Army Golden Knights. McKeon enlisted in the Army in 2017, three weeks after his 17th birthday, and competed for an Airborne School slot after he had completed his medical training. As a basic parachutist at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, he received an email from a USMA Soldier Admissions officer who informed McKeon that he had “great potential to gain admittance” to West Point. McKeon then serendipitously met a USMA cadet at one of Fort Liberty’s dining facilities and asked him a lot of questions about being a cadet at the Academy.

CDT Daniel McKeon ’27

Armed with answers, McKeon made it a goal to attend USMA and become a Black Knight—but not before he became a Golden Knight, a member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team. “I was cut from my first try out, as they wanted to see a bit more maturity,” says McKeon. “So, I volunteered to go early on a deployment with the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq, making the team after I returned home and tried out again.” He made about 860 jumps as a Golden Knight, including the one for the 2022 Army-Navy Game, before which he told his teammates that he would be attending the 2023 Army-Navy Game as a cadet, having been accepted earlier in the year. “Letting my teammates know that I was accepted to West Point was the proudest moment of my life,” McKeon says. “From the moment I told them of my intentions, I received their support and encouragement.”

McKeon says that watching the game as a cadet was “a lot warmer and less stressful” than jumping into the game and that participating in the March On before the game was an “honor.” While McKeon misses the close-knit family environment that the Parachute Team provided, he is trying to bring a modicum of this camaraderie to his cadet company, A-3. “While on the Golden Knights, I was fortunate enough to be taught how to sew, and I’ve made it my goal to sew one thing onto every cadet’s uniform in my company,” he says. “I’m pleased to say that I’m about 80 percent into completing this goal.”

Read the complete Spring 2024 edition of West Point magazine here.

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The mission of West Point magazine is to tell the West Point story and strengthen the grip of the Long Gray Line. Opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, policy, or attitude of the U.S. Army or USMA. Send your feedback to editor@wpaog.org.

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