The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation Weekend

The Long Grey Line, 2011 photo by Stanley LearyIt won’t be long until your senior cadet will be graduating. The cadets wait four years for this weekend, then spend the rest of their lives wishing they could return.

In some cases the cadets will be commissioned into a branch of the military, graduate and report for duty. Other cadets will graduate and begin their careers in the business world or go on to graduate school.

The events of commencement weekend begin on Thursday with an awards ceremony and the baccalaureate service. The Star of the West competition is also held Thursday.

Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his lieutenant bars from his father, Blake Lalli and his uncle, LTC (Ret.) John Lalli photo by Stanley Leary

LT Lalli receives his first salute from SFC Polidoro photo by Stanley Leary

The commissioning services are held Friday morning. The Army usually goes first. Check with your cadet and/or the ROTC office if you have questions about the ceremony.We were told to arrive an hour early to secure the best seat. Two family members may pin the bars on the new lieutenant and may sit with him or her. The rest of the family and friends sit behind them. After the ceremony in the chapel the lieutenants go out to the parade field to receive their first salute from a non-commissioned officer (NCO). It is customary for the new officer to give the NCO a silver dollar at this time.

We gave our cadet a Lifetime Membership in the Citadel Alumni Association. All new Lifetime members and up to 3 other guests may attend a gathering in their honor at the alumni building. A cadet miniature ring or pendant is a nice gift idea for a cadet to give their mother. Since they are expensive it may be a gift for later, after the graduate has worked for a few years. Other scheduled events Friday include instructions and photos of alumni and their graduate son or daughters or grandsons and daughters.

The Summerall Guards perform for the graduating class prior to the final graduation parade. The schedule states that in the case of inclement weather the parade will be canceled. In May of 2011 President Rosa told us the only reason they would cancel the parade was if there was lightning. True to his word, the parade took place in the pouring rain. We were soaked, but happy.

You will want to find a spot across from your cadets company during the parade. At the designated time the seniors are called out of their companies and from the Long Grey Line, standing shoulder to shoulder the length the parade field. They then march toward the review stands and away from their companies. When they reach the other side the graduating seniors turn around and wave to their companies. Be sure to have your cameras, and tissues, handy!

I was warned by a friend whose son graduated a year before mine not to be surprised if my son didn’t spend a lot of time with us. The seniors begin to realize that the closer they get to graduation the closer they get to saying good-bye to their close friends. They have lived for the day when they no longer had to worry about an SMI or a Friday parade, but graduating also means they will never again live with all these good friends again. As an observer throughout the weekend I could see this realization hit the new graduates one by one.

May of 2011 it poured throughout the parade. We were soaked and decided to skip the reception at the president’s home. I’m sure most years it is a lovely event to attend.

McAlister Fieldhouse fills up quickly on graduation day. photo by Stanley Leary

Graduation on Saturday is pretty typical of most college graduations. Each cadet is given up to 8 tickets to use. If you need more tickets your cadet is told to resource with friends who may not use the allotment. The Cadet Activities office handles the ticket process. The tickets are assigned to you and can be any where in the field house. I am not sure of the procedure for accessible seating. When in doubt check with the Cadet Activities office directly.

Like the parades when the companies are in alphabetical order, the cadets sit in alphabetical order. Once you spot one or two you know you can then start to narrow down where your cadet is seated. We played a modified game of “Where’s Waldo” to keep my daughter occupied. If you have you ger family members I suggest packing quiet activities like coloring books since the ceremony will last at least 3 hours.

We played "Where's Waldo" while waiting to hear our cadet's name called. photo by Stanley Leary

At the very end of the graduation ceremony the president will dismiss the cadets for the last time. Be sure to have your camera ready. The photos with all their covers in the air are really fun!

It helps to have a plan after the ceremony of where you will meet. Many families met on the floor. Others met outside.

DISMISSED!!! photo by Stanley Leary

Notes:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General information regarding commencement weekend tickets and handicap access, see the FAQ link above for more information.

Many seniors never want to see their uniforms again. If you want to have it, make sure you let your cadet know prior to graduation week. Many of them leave their uniforms behind. The underclassmen then through the rooms of abandoned clothes and pick up what they will need for the next year.

Rental houses and condos book up quickly. Get yours as soon as you can. We stayed in a hotel and had no trouble getting reservations a few months ahead.

Each company and group of friends have their own traditions at graduation. We were invited to a luncheon by the family of one of our sons friends. I’ve heard of others who rented homes and hosted beach parties.

Dress for the weekend events – See FAQ link above. Most people dress up a little more for the commencement weekend events than for regular parades during the year. Graduation and the Commissioning ceremonies especially. You will see a wide variety of outfits though. The general rule of thumb is to match the uniform of the day for the cadets which for graduation and the parade is their most formal. For the commissioning ceremony, the Lifetime Membership Luncheon and graduation my daughter and I wore dresses and my husband wore a tie. If it is a sunny weekend, you may want to wear a hat with a wide brim to help shield you from the sun during the parade.

The Citadel, Bravo Company 2011, photo by Stanley Leary

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