WEST POINT – Thousands of family, friends and well-wishers gathered at the United States Military Academy on Saturday for the class of 2016 graduation and commissioning ceremony in Michie Stadium.
953 cadets graduated and most were commissioned as second lieutenants. Three will be commissioned into the Navy and one will be commissioned in the US Marine Corps. There were also 11 international cadets who will serve in their nations’ armed forces.
This year’s commencement speaker was Vice President Joe Biden. He spoke about how the military has changed and how this graduating class will make it better. For example, women will be allowed to serve in combat rolls. The class of 2016 will have five women to serve in the Infantry and two in the Armor branch of the Army.
Biden said the recent decision to allow women to serve in combat rolls will make the Army stronger.
Vice President Joe Biden also spoke about the class president and first captain Eugene Coleman. He is only the third cadet in West Point history to hold both positions. The other two were Gen. John Pershing, class of 1886 and Brig. General Pete Dawkins, class of 1959.
Biden also praised Coleman for having the courage to tell Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, Jr. that he is gay. Biden said if we didn’t repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, “that admission could have deprived the Army of a good soldier.”
The vice president ordered the cadets to call their parents frequently and to thank them no matter where they go. “They have given you the strength to make it through the years at West Point,” Biden said.
Biden also thanked the parents of the graduates for “molding patriots.” He said they will be charged with keeping America safe, both home and abroad. They will be charged with protecting the arteries of global commerce as they are the lifeblood of our economy.
Following Biden’s speech Class President, Cadet Eugene Coleman presented the Vice President with a cadet bust on behalf of the Class of 2016.
Soon the names of all 953 graduating cadets would be called, as the Vice President remained to shake each cadets hand and receive their Second Lieutenants bars.
Following the dismissal and the traditional hat toss, children ran onto the field to collect cadets hats. Inside were hidden treasures, including pictures, notes, and money from the cadets.
The class of 2016 included 151 women, 69 African-Americans, 71 Asian/Pacific Islanders, 77 Hispanics and 12 Native Americans.