Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Day at the United States Military Academy



Travel Day 3 -- Round Pond Recreation Area, USMA, West Point, NY (41.377700,-74.026700)

Today was the only "tourist" day on our trip to Maine. We spent it on the campus of the US Military Academy at West Point. We began at the visitor center walking among the impressive exhibits which explained in words and pictures what the Academy is all about. Then to a small theater showing a continuous film of clips about the place. Naturally there was a bus/walking tour. We had a choice between a one hour tour and a two hour tour. We elected the one hour, two stop tour. Our guide was a very nice lady who was asian with a substantial accent. I expected her contribution to be a canned script with canned answers to canned questions. Not so. She was very knowledgeable to the smallest detail and excited about her job and the place she is able to work -- refreshing.

West Point was a military fort before it became the site of the US Military Academy. A quick look at a map explains why. It is at a very narrow place on the Hudson River which was a major north/south waterway before and during the American Revolution. It was the perfect place for large gun emplacements to control ship traffic on the river. In fact it is so narrow that it was possible to stretch a chain from shore to shore to stop boat traffic. Once again geography shaped history.


During our brief visit, there were practically no cadets on site. We were there after graduation and before the incoming freshman arrived. Upper classmen were off on to their summer training assignments, so the campus was just about empty. We did not get to see any noon formations or parades. Nevertheless the campus is impressive.


At all of the US service academies, the chapel is a must see place. To me the chapel binds the generations of the living and dying of our military personnel together and focuses into one place the spirit of our humanity regardless of our own particular religion. The chapel speaks loud and clear "This is Hallowed Ground"


This is the Superintendents' Pew. Each silver plate contains the engraved signature of an Academy Superintendent.


I was particularly moved by the Battle Monument commemorating the civil war, remembering that leaders of both the Union and the Confederacy were graduates and classmates here. The monument contains the names of 188 officers and 2,042 men of the Regular Army who fell in the brutal Civil War. The monument has sixteen cannons in a circle facing outward with the name of a civil war battle on each one. In its great height, it reigns over the Hudson River and provides a wonderful view for those passing by on the river.

Michelle and I are both US Air Force veterans, and our son Adam is a graduate of the US Naval Academy. The traditions of all our service academies hold a special place in our hearts. It was good to spend a day at West Point.

There is more interesting history about this area and the USMA than I can begin to cover. Let's just say it was and is an important location in the establishment of our nation and in shaping many of our leaders for the two hundred plus years to follow.

I'll leave you with these few pictures and encourage you to put West Point on your list of "must see" places in your journeys across our great land.

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