On May 26th, my brother graduated with his BS degree in Systems Engineering from the United States Naval Academy.
The United States Naval Academy is a prestigious collegiate institution where young men and women can attend college while simultaneously training to become an officer in our military. Over 10,000 applicants apply each year and about 10% are accepted. My brother graduated with a class of 1,053.
In exchange for guaranteed years of service, the men and woman who attend USNA are given a free education (equivalent to an ivy league education and valued at over $400,000) dollars. My brother was able to spend his summers in California, Hawaii, the mountains of Washington State, ride in helicopters, land on an aircraft carrier and travel underwater in a submarine thanks to USNA.
My family and I flew to Annapolis, Maryland four years ago for I Day, which is the official start of a plebe (freshman) year. We dropped off an 18 year old who was scared and uncertain about what the next four years would bring. On May 26th my brother walked across the stage, shook the Vice President’s hand and became a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He is now a confident, happy, and strong 22 year old man.
I pray for him and thank him every day for choosing to serve our country and to protect it’s citizens.
Over the past four years, my mom was very active in the Central Florida USNA Parents Club and held various positions within the club. She knew USNA graduation was a huge deal (it is a week long extravaganza) so she attended conferences and spent hours at the computer researching the logistics of having a great graduation week. I didn’t want that knowledge to go to waste so I asked her to write up a few tips to share in this post. She also emailed a few of her friends to ask for their tips as well!
I realize the majority of my readers aren’t going to have any need for this information, but with the power of SEO and Google, I am hoping someone who does can find this article and find it helpful.
Without further adieu… here are my mom’s (and her friends’) tips:
“Below is a compilation of Commissioning week tips provided from different moms who just experienced USNA 2017 Graduation.
- Plan ahead – There is a lot going on that week and think of it as needing a battle plan. How are your people getting around? Don’t count on your mid to chauffeur people around since they still have responsibilities on the yard and are dismissed at a variety of times.Take the time to read the Maryland Parent’s Commissioning 101 Document. It will very helpful in the planning process.
- Listen to your Mid – Everything this week is about and for them. For many it’s the last time they will be with friends until their reunions. Some like to hang with family. Some want parties, some don’t. Some want to go to all the events. Some want to pick and chose which event to attend. There are tons of events and not everyone attends everything. Let your Mid decide.
- Arrive early – The Color Parade is at 11:00 and we arrived at 9:40. Yes, people might think you’re crazy but you will eliminate tons of stress when you can get a seat with your group.
- Don’t Forget Tickets – I was the keeper of the tickets and kept them on me at all times. It is easy to run out of the house without tickets. You are issued limited tickets to events so make sure to have a plan if you have a larger group. Our Mid wanted a smaller group at graduation so we were sharing tickets when someone was in need.
- Find Housing a Minimum of a Year Out – Yes, there are locations available closer to the event but the stress is definitely not worth it. There are sites and rental companies in Annapolis that will help you locate the perfect house for your family. Check hotels and B&B on earliest reservation date. In reality, there is no perfect place. Decisions are made based on location, parking, size and budget. Some people want to be close to the yard for events. Some by the water. There are ups and downs to every location. Staying at a hotel is great and easy but tends to not have a private gathering place for the family to enjoy each other. Staying by the water is great but tends to have more of a driving time to the yard. Don’t forget the Mids have to be at the yard for early report times. If they drive themselves then they are scrambling for parking places. If you drive them and drop them off then you are up really early too. Traffic during graduation week is crazy. On top of the thousands of people attending graduation and locals you have plebe parents in for the Herndon Climb.
Some mom’s commented about the housing situation:
“I really wanted to rent a house but the B&B right across the street from gate 1 sure was handy!”
“If you don’t have the space to entertain out-of-town guests but want to thank them for all their efforts then treat them to a nice dinner.”
“If you can try and stay Saturday night so its not crazy Friday night packing up to leave Saturday. Removes a lot of stress on an already stressful day!”
- Schedule showers – If you are renting a house then make sure to schedule showers because a number of moms and guests ran out of hot water. A couple recommended showering and washing hair the night before commissioning or limiting to 2 minute showers. This seems like a small thing but is helpful to prepare.
- Parking is always an issue – on the yard and around Annapolis. A couple of times when arriving early at the beginning of the week we were able to find parking but as it got crazier we used the stadium parking where you were bused to the yard. So easy! Parking is free for graduation parents and parking passes are provided with your ticket packet which your mid will receive. The buses are comfortable and drops you off at Alumni Hall and the Visitor Center and run continuously. There was also recommendation of using uber to avoid parking nightmare.
- Download the USNA app – All events are listed under the Commissioning Week heading including map of the yard for your guests.
- Dress in layers – I spent weeks planning out wardrobe options for a hot/humid week next to the Severn and it was cold and rainy. Graduation day was beautiful and that was the important day. Plan for all weather contingencies. It would be 50’s in the morning and then warm up when the sun came out. Definitely bring a hat. Even though it was a cooler day on our grad day the sun was bright and those that did not bring a hat ended up being sunburned.
Some of the Events we Attended with Observations (We did not attend every event based on Mid’s desires)
- Company Party-If your Mid’s Company has a party I would definitely attend IF your Mid wants too. This was such a great time for us and it was great seeing our Mid interact with Company friends and their parents who have become family.
- Color Company Parade-This too was a great event. Our guests-those who had not experienced USNA before-really enjoyed the parade. You are only given 4 tickets to this event. IF your group is larger than 4 then one option is to have your Mid ask around for extra tickets or the extra guests stand or sit between the bleachers. Plastic tablecloths are a great item to pack for this event and Blue Angels event.
- Glee Club Concert-Your Mid can get tickets one week before they become available to the public. Might be helpful to remind them to order them. We ended up having great seats thanks to our Mid. The tickets were $9 a piece and you are assigned a row but not a seat so make sure to get there early for best seats.
- Superintendent’s Garden Party-Lovely location, nice food and drink, great pic opportunities. Definitely go if you can make it! Follow dress code suggestions that can be found on the USNA commissioning website and in the commissioning packet. You are only given 5 tickets (including your mid) for this event so plan accordingly.
- Blue Angels-Now that is a sight that can’t be missed! Friends that attended arrived early, used the plastic tablecloths to sit and watch the show. Again, arrive early. Crowds are very large. My Mid opted to have lunch on our rooftop porch with the family rather than fight the crowds and traffic.
- Graduation-Was amazing! Definitely arrive early! We got there around 7:30 and are glad we did! People were saving seats (though they were not supposed to) and waiting for their guests to come. If you get there later be prepared to sit in general seating or not get to sit together in assigned company seating. You are given 6 tickets per Mid for company seating. Once again, if you have a larger group then have your Mid ask around their company for extra tickets. Choose a meeting place for your mid and family members to take pics. Usually battle locations are chosen as meeting locations.