Tradition. It is a word that holds so much meaning for so many, yet none more so than the aspiring graduates of West Point. This coming weekend will mark the beginning of the West Point 2015-16 Academic Year, but they celebrate much differently than a typical college.
Ring Weekend celebrates the “Firsties” (seniors) who are nearing the end of their collegiate journey. During the Ring Ceremony, they will receive their graduating class rings; rings they were given the opportunity to heavily customize a year earlier as “Cows” (juniors). This ceremony is a milestone of great importance to all West Point Cadet’s. It signals that he/she is nearing the end of their time at the United State Military Academy and will soon be leading soldiers as a Second Lieutenant.
To understand the tradition and importance of the West Point graduating ring, one must go back to the beginning. In 1835, West Point became the first school in the United States to issue graduating class rings. The ring, itself, became one of the most identifying marks of a West Point graduate. All rings bear the West Point crest and are made of yellow gold and black onyx, representing the black and yellow school colors. The gold used to make the rings isn’t just any typical gold, however. In 2002, with a strong desire to honor the deceased graduates of West Point, the “Memorial Ring Program” was established. Families of deceased graduates donate rings of loved ones, which are then melted down and recast with new gold. This gold is then forged into every single new ring, tying every graduate to the “Long Grey Line” and the rest of their class.
After the Cadets receive their rings, while wearing their India White uniforms at the beautiful Trophy Point, the “Firsties” are besieged by members of the Plebe (freshman) class who attempt to stop the “Firsties” from leaving with their dates. It is extremely common to see a “Firstie” become encircled by upwards of 30 “Plebes” reciting the “Ring Poop.”
“What a crass mass of brass and glass! What a bold mold of rolled gold! See how it sparkles and shines! It must have cost you a fortune! May I touch it please, Sir/Ma’am?”
Following a Friday evening in NYC with family and friends, Cadets then prepare for the formal dinner and hop (dance) on Saturday evening. Cadets are, again, wearing their India Whites and coveted red sash. Military guests wear Dress uniforms, civilian male guests wear tuxedos and women wear formal gowns. Fiances of “Firsties” receive miniature engagement rings and mothers receive the “Moter’s Ring” during this event. In all, Ring Weekend is a weekend that West Point Cadets look forward to for three years and will never forget.