There will be about 1,000 midshipman’s covers flying through the air this year in Annapolis, eventually.
The first group of 200 newly minted Navy ensigns and Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants celebrated in a Naval Academy commissioning ceremony Tuesday, a coronavirus-altered event closed to the public.
Dressed in Navy whites and Marine blues, the young men and women sat in socially distant seats waiting to take their oath in the academy’s Tecumseh Court.
“Our Naval Academy family has missed having our midshipmen on the Yard, and we are overjoyed that our team has been able to organize a safe and memorable swearing-in event for the Class of 2020,” superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
“While I will certainly miss watching our graduates walk across the stage at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium as they complete the journey from midshipman to Ensign or 2nd Lieutenant, I am incredibly proud of the positive attitude and resiliency with which these men and women have handled an unorthodox ending to their time in Annapolis.”
Commissioning week was canceled this year as the Navy and Maryland instituted precautions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Mids did not return from spring break and finished the semester through online classes.
The decision meant a loss of traditions important to the academy community, from dances and parades to the ceremony normally held at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“At the Naval Academy, the greatest traditions are the milestones each class works to achieve,” Ensign Spencer McVeigh wrote in a recent opinion piece for The Capital. “For the plebes, it is scaling the Herndon Monument. For second class, it is signing two-for-seven. For the firsties, it is the classwide cover toss.”
Tuesday’s group is the first in five rounds of mids who will travel to the academy to move out of Bancroft Hall, the massive academy dorm, and be sworn-in over the next 10 days.
The ceremonies are being filmed and will be released on May 22 to mark commissioning. The new junior officers will either take a short leave or head to their next assignments, usually additional schooling.
One of the seats set out Tuesday was occupied by a football helmet from the 2019 Army-Navy Game, placed in the memory of Midshipman David Forney of Walkersville, who would have commissioned as an ensign and cryptologic warfare officer.
The 22-year-old football player was found unresponsive in his dorm room Feb. 20 and later pronounced dead. His cause of death is still pending with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The academy is the second of the U.S. service academies to hold its commencement this year. The Air Force Academy graduated its cadets last month in Colorado Springs, and President Donald Trump will speak to the graduating class of cadets at West Point next month. The Coast Guard Academy will live-stream its ceremony on May 20.
Despite the circumstances, Buck said he has faith in the Class of 2020.
“Despite the unprecedented circumstances, I am completely confident that they will excel as leaders at the next step of their journey as newly minted commissioned officers in the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said.
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