25 Years Ago Today

May 21, 1986 ranks right up there with June 24, 1989 (my wedding day) and March 8, 1991 (the birthday of my only child) in the pantheon of my most memorable dates. It was all the more remarkable to me at the time, since during my entire four years at the Naval Academy, it was never anywhere near certain, or even probable at some points, that I would actually manage to graduate and receive my commission. My persnickety anti-authoritarian tendencies and numerous bad habits made me something less than the ideal midshipman, shall we say.

But, surprise surprise, that amazing day came, and that amazing day went, and I’ve got a photo and a diploma and a commission to prove that it happened, though the experience still seems surreal to me, a quarter-century later.

As it turns out, I’ve spent a good chunk of my post-Naval Academy time serving in a variety of class leadership positions, including Class President for five years, and I’m currently the reunion coordinator for our 25th anniversary homecoming in October. Just goes to show that you can’t judge an old book by its early edition covers.

On the 25th anniversary of our graduation and commissioning into the armed services, I also pause to honor the 26 members of our class who are no longer with us, including one of my plebe year room-mates, one of the 9/11 victims in the Pentagon, and one of the casualties in the war in Iraq that followed. I salute them and the others for their service, and extend all affection and respect to their families. They are missed and remembered.

Having been involved in class communications for so many years, it’s been a delight to see the ways that my brothers and sisters in the class of ’86 have made their marks over the years, in the armed services, in the corporate world, in the nonprofit sector, in their home communities, in government and beyond. We have Admirals and Generals among our ranks, along with CEOs, ministers, doctors, elected officials, pilots, entrepreneurs, lawyers, financial managers, writers and representatives in dozens and dozens of other fields of professional and volunteer endeavor.

While I was pretty surly for most of my four years in Annapolis, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that there’s no other institution that could have had the long-term positive impact on my life that the Naval Academy did, and the personal bonds forged there are still strong and vibrant and important, all these years later.

It’s been an incredible quarter century for us, I think. Here’s looking forward to the next one.

9 thoughts on “25 Years Ago Today

  1. Congratulations, Ensign Smith.

    The esteemed academy south of Cornwall-on-Hudson runs their R-Day rehearsal every year, in which volunteers can be a Plebe for a day. I’ve done it and can legitimately say one day was enough. Your fortitude is to be admired.

    • 1. I had scary mad Mickey Rourke-in-“Diner” crossed with Sid Vicious hair back then . . . . in my grad photo, you will notice that it is two colors, as I had been in Florida a few months earlier and, after scoffing at one of the women I was hanging out with who was putting lemon juice in her hair, I emptied about half a bottle of “Sun In” on my head, turning it a bright, fluorescent orange . . . I suspect that the Admiral shaking my hand above is saying “Son . . . what the hell happened to your head??”

      2. Enjoy your youth and skill while you have them . . . as I enjoy my treachery and age . . .

      • Heh. Your two-tone coif was the first thing I noted, my thought being “How in the h@ll did that hair pass muster?” A childhood filled with military-reg haircuts will do that to a man.

        • Graduation was one of the rare/(only?) events where we wore dress uniforms without covers . . . so for most of my time at Navy, most of my hair was hidden under a hat, except for the edges around the neck and ears. So I kept that buzz-cut straight, but grew the top WAY out, so I could function at Navy by day, and in the post-punk clubs by night, with somewhat equal effectiveness . . .

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