As a sea of friends and family members looked on Thursday evening, the roughly 1,232 members of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2015 marched to their seats at Tecumseh Court before the oath of office ceremony–the moment when they would officially become midshipmen.
They had endured a long day that included medical exams, checking in and meeting the upperclassmen who would lead their training over the next several weeks.
They were ready for the final step before starting their new lives as plebes.
“This is just the starting point. In the coming weeks you will be challenged morally, mentally, physically and it will not be easy, but the things in life we cherish most are those we work the hardest to obtain,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller said at the beginning of the ceremony. “If you weren’t strong enough, smart enough, motivated enough you would not be here today. We will teach you to overcome, to persevere and face adversity head on.”
Commandant of Midshipmen, Capt. Robert E. Clark II administered the oath of office.
“What an absolute glorious day, and I can’t help but to think as I look out on this sea of white that the seeds of our global force for good will be planted here today,” he said.
The nerves were apparent.
As Clark asked the international candidates (who take a separate oath first) to stand, several other midshipmen candidates stood up too. As Clark repeated that only the international students should rise, those standing quickly realized their mistake and sat back down.
“It’s OK, this is a training command,” Clark said, as some in the crowd quietly laughed.
Then, when the oath of office was finally taken and as Clark said “Welcome aboard, shipmates,” there were claps and shouts of joy as the candidates were no longer civilians and now midshipmen.
Parents, family and friends lined up behind the letter of their midshipman’s last name, waiting to see them for the first time since dropping them off about 12 hours earlier.
Gathered at the “H” were friends and family of Molly Hanna, 18, of Annapolis.
Patch caught up with the St. Mary’s grad earlier in the day as she was just checking in. She was greeted by friends and family, including her twin sister. The twins will be separated for the first time during college.
“I love your glasses, they’re so cute,” her mom said as she hugged her.
“It’s exciting but I still know I have the next six weeks ahead of me so that’s a little bit looming but I’m still excited,” said Hanna.
Coming to wish her luck was Midshipman 3rd Class Colleen Randolph, a fellow St. Mary’s grad, who had been on the swim team with Hanna. “We met up last night and I gave her all the tips and tricks. She’ll do amazing,” Randolph said.
Across the way, taking pictures and saying final goodbyes was Connor O’Neill of Annapolis. His father, Capt. John O’Neill, a graduate in the Class of 1985 and now Commanding Officer for Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, was waiting for him, and had helped prepare him for the day.
“Well, I told him he needs to have a good sense of humor and work together with his classmates,” he said.
Also telling her family goodbye was Alexandria Berry, 17, of Greensboro, NC, standing with her dad, Retired Sgt. First Class Anthony Berry, in his Army uniform.
“This is her dream. She wanted to be an astronaut and she felt the Naval Academy was a path to that,” Berry said.
“Of course, I wanted her to go to West Point but this was her dream so I have to follow her dream,” said her mom, Jill Berry, also an Army veteran.
“It’s gonna be interesting. I don’t think I’ll be able to sit with my parents when they come to any of the games. Maybe, though. I can’t let any of my friends see,” Alexandria Berry said.
The plebes started their intensive training, known as Plebe Summer, Friday. They hugged friends and family goodbye and will have a chance to see them again for Parents' Weekend in six weeks.