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Keeping a Father’s Legacy Alive

Categories: Cadet News, Grad News
Class Years: , ,

By Erika Norton, WPAOG Staff

Every West Point class ring allows the legacies of the Long Gray Line to live on, but for Cadet Dennis “Ricky” McMahon IV ’25, his ring will ensure his father’s legacy and memory are always close at hand.

Ricky’s father, West Point Class of 1985 graduate Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. McMahon, died in a plane crash in Afghanistan on November 27, 2004, where he was serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. After his passing, Michael’s class ring was donated to the Cadet Library Ring Display in 2014, but through WPAOG’s Class Ring Memorial Program, a chip of gold was carefully removed and added to the Legacy Gold, which will be used to make the Class of 2025’s rings, including Ricky’s ring.

A total of 88 donated West Point class rings were placed into a stone crucible during the 2024 Ring Melt ceremony earlier this year, where they were then melted down to be used to make the Class of 2025’s rings.

According to Ricky, the ceremony was not only an opportunity for him to connect with his father, but with his mother as well. Together, both Ricky and his mom, Colonel Retired Jeanette McMahon, a West Point Class of 1983 graduate and Gold Star spouse, placed the piece of Michael’s ring into the crucible during the ceremony.

2024 Ring Melt

“I think it’s kind of amazing that I’ll have that piece in my own ring,” Ricky said. “I really think the whole ceremony itself, the meaning behind it can’t be overemphasized. The connection these families have to that ring, it’s not just a piece of metal to them. Oftentimes it can be one of the last things they have of their loved one, and it’s everything that they hold dear. So their donation is incredibly impactful.”

Jeanette shared her thoughts after the Ring Melt ceremony:

“It was so meaningful,” she said. “Though his [Michael’s] piece was a little piece, when I sat and heard about the 87 other rings that were donated, it made me realize that all of the graduates, we all have our own unique stories and so many families have so many legacies. But to be a part of that bigger family, that’s huge. So it was great to be able to honor his memory and his piece of the bigger West Point story.”

Ricky and Jeanette have honored Michael during other milestone events along Ricky’s West Point journey.

2024 Fallen Comrades Half Marathon
Photo by Eric S. Bartelt, USMA PAO

This past summer, Ricky was involved in Taskforce McMahon for an Air Assault detail in honor and memory of his father.

“The main focus for us was that every day, you don’t want to go through the motions,” Ricky said. “You want to be focused on the details and care, because that eventually builds the habits that let you get people that you care about home. So for myself, the loss of my father is less of a pain, and now more of a support in helping me try and mentor others using that experience.”

Michael McMahon was also among the West Point graduates honored at the 2024 Fallen Comrades Half Marathon at West Point in March. Approximately 700 participants conquered the 13.1-mile course in remembrance of 13 fallen West Point graduates.

According to Jeanette, Michael was a superb runner himself, so she understands how much resilience and grit it takes to prepare for endurance events. She delivered an inspiring opening message to the runners before the start of the race.

“During your run, I encourage you all to think about how you will respond to the losses you will encounter as leaders in the Army, and how you will take the resilience you have for endurance races and channel that into life in general when times are tough,” Jeanette said. “Mike would expect you all to carry on his tradition of caring for Soldiers and Families in the manner taught to him during his time at West Point: to live the Army Values, to honor the fallen, and to keep ‘Duty, Honor, and Country’ close to your heart in everything you do.”

“Three, two, one, GO!”

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