From The Class of 1953
Fiftieth Reunion Memorial Service
In May of this year the USMA Class of 1953 gathered to celebrate fifty years since our graduation from West Point. It was a memorable reunion. One of the most memorable and moving events was the Class Memorial Service held to honor our departed classmates. After the names of our deceased classmates had been read aloud by company representatives and the Class was declared "All Present or Accounted For". Our class chaplain and classmate, The Rev. Robert F. Blum of the Episcopal Church and Colonel, U S Army Retired, presented the following homily. The Class of 1953 believes the homily to be so significant that we offer it here so all graduates and Cadets can have the opportunity to be inspired by its words.
Robert W. Blum
Father Abraham was encamped in the territory of an Amorite ally when the
messenger arrived with news that an army of the kings of Chaldea (a region in
what is now southern Iraq) had sacked the Cities of the Plain at the southern
end of the Dead Sea. Among their captives was Abraham's kinsman, Lot, and their
loot included all of Lot's worldly goods. The capture of Lot provoked Abraham
to war. He mobilized the young men; they numbered just 318 troops, so he
convinced the neighboring Amorite chieftain to join with him in a coalition to
liberate the captives and recover the loot. The combined force must have
numbered near 500 men, about the size of our graduating class, a battalion by
today's standards, but a small army four thousand years ago.
Some years earlier Lot and Abraham had chosen different paths for their lives, Lot going one way, and Abraham another, much as we have chosen a myriad of diverse paths on which to pursue our life ambitions. Abraham himself exhibited a broad diversity of talent. As the undisputed patriarch of his clan, he had developed many skills over the years, and those of the statesman, the judge, and the general were prominent among them. Now his sense of loyalty and responsibility for his kinsman motivated him to action.
Abraham's extraordinary tactical skills were demonstrated when he split his forces to conduct a perfectly coordinated, two-pronged, surprise night attack against the Chaldeans after a forced march of more than 100 miles to intercept them near Damascus. The Chaldean army was defeated, the captives liberated, and the looted goods recovered. At the time, Abraham was in his late seventies, just a few years older than those of us here today, and like us, still vigorous and filled with life.
One half century ago, we stood straight and strong to review the Corps at Graduation Parade. Behind us was a quarter century of preparation; ahead of us a lifetime of experiences: some thrilling, others mundane; some filled with joy, others with sorrow. One hundred and twenty of us have since completed the course of this life, and they watch closely from the shadowed ranks of the Long Gray Line as the 392 of us who remain continue our march. For us, the remaining 392, the beat of the drum is slowing, the pace is growing shorter, and the rest periods more frequent as we near the final bivouac. In our memories, now grown more vivid than our dreams, are the Abrahams and Lots in our lives, some of whom are classmates, while others were met along the way, before and since we began to comprehend the true meaning of the term, classmate. The Abrahams helped us on our way, and at one time or another may have come to our rescue, and the Lots in our lives are those whom we were privileged to help, and perhaps, on occasion, to rescue from some distress.
For more than a century now, all who have worn Cadet Gray have had engraved on their memories the words written by H.S. Shipman sometime around the Academy's first Centennial in 1902. We know it as "The Corps", a hymn by which cadets learn to respect and honor those who have preceded them. They sing,
and they acknowledge the hold with which the Long Gray Line grips them, even from the Shadows. They sing, and we echo after them, especially to the 120 in whose memory we gather here this morning,
As the years press on, and inevitably they shall, the shadows cast by us
from the Long Gray Line will grow ever more numerous, until, at the last, 512
shadows will again stand straight and tall, ooo and from our ranks -if any who
knew us well is listening closely- can be heard steady whisperings of shared
memories: of great times together, of battles fought, of triumphs and
tragedies, of lives forever intertwined. There are now present but the cadre of
120 for the battalion whose manning table has places for exactly 512. Its ranks
will never thin; none will be discharged or placed on half-pay. The remaining
392 files are all assigned and have been alerted to await orders to join.
Finally, when the last one of us is joined, we will have become another full
strength contingent of the Long Gray Line. The paths of our lives which
converged in the Summer of 1949, and four years later diverged onto so many
different courses after Graduation will have come together once
Marching closely beside each of those contingents is a formation of irregulars, loosely structured and not always in step. The rattle of cookware and the voices of women and children can be heard from there. They walked with us in the light, and have joined with us in the shadows, some going ahead, some following behind, determined to press on with us to wherever that road might lead.
These are the ties that bind us close. They might be loosened for a time, but only for a time. Inevitably, they reach out to draw us back into formation, to march together once again, a second and never ending Graduation Parade
Riverview on Round Bay