Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | September 29, 2014

Class of 72 Memorial Service

My daughter, Maggie,  put the program together

My daughter, Maggie, put the program together

822 men graduated from the United States Military Academy on June 7th, 1972.   54 graduates and 3 ex-cadets are deceased.   Our dead are less than 10% of our class.  That’s changing, of course.

Regardless of how many are gone, each man matters.  It isn’t easy to explain the bonds of four years in a total institution at the age when boys become men.  Followed by 5 years or more service in the same intense work.   Our identity includes our Class.  We are the Class and the Class is us.  The death of a classmate diminishes us all, because it is a loss to the Class.  (Not sure that I’m communicating well.)

A classmate once spoke of the splendid isolation of our time at West Point.   Guys knew guys in their regiment, by activities, or for a very few by corps-wide reputation.  So, any fellow probably knows 300 out 822 guys by name, voice and some shared experiences.   Yet, when some guy we can’t remember goes, it’s a loss.  When it’s a guy you know, it hits hard.  You shared a lot of intense times together.  Our classmate, Joel Harris, made that his message today.   It’s about remembering.

Joel is a retired US Army chaplain.   Currently, he is the Chaplain at The Citadel.  Interestingly, another classmate, Jim Parks, is the Chaplain at Virginia Military Institute.

Joel planned and lead a beautiful service for our dead at the Wren Chapel, The Wren Building, on the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Deceased classmates and order of worship

Deceased classmates and order of worship

Joel asked me to lead the reading of the Cadet Prayer.   When I was a cadet, during the times made for cynicism by the bizarre world of West Point and the brutal waste of the Vietnam War, I deemed this prayer quite elitist and pretentious.  I recant that conclusion.  The prayer sets a high bar goal.  Even if it is unattainable by fallen, sinful men, it’s worthy of the reach.   While reaching the cadets and, later, Army officers will live better, serve better, lead better and be better men.

Worthy goals

Worthy goals

Joel’s music selection was superb.  Read the words.  How fitting in these times.  The singing was so uplifting.  The small Anglican chapel made the predominately men’s voices of about 50 folks resonate.  It reminded me of when we had mandatory chapel the first Summer and about 800 Protestant young men sang in the bowl at Trophy Point.  The male voices rumbled.  We, Catholics and Protestants, did so again this morning.

Great words for these times and all times

Great words for these times and all times

Joel digressed from his prepared sermon.  He spoke about “why” we get together at reunion.  To remember.   We remember our classmates and God remembers all of us.  His message, given in such lovingkindness, was spot on.

Our classmate Wayne Boy is the director for all the facilities at the College of William and Mary.  Like their Post Engineer.  He arranged to have the Wren Chapel for us.  He got help to play the vimeo of our classmates – which I can’t figure out how to upload here, yet.  He arranged for a gifted organist to play beautifully.

He arranged to have the Wren Cross taken from its silly, Progressive plastic cage.

I gave the sermon to a meeting of the Save the Wren Cross friends a few years ago.  I provided this story to update my classmates on our role in the Great U.S. Culture War.

Back story on our chapel location

Back story on our chapel location

Thank you Joel, Wayne and helpers.  Thank you, Maggie, for the graphics and Kathy Guild for the vimeo.

Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, for my classmates – living and dead – and not forgotten by we who draw breath.


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