Friday, November 06, 2009

West Point Visit 2

On Wednesday morning we went out to the plain as close as we could get to morning formation. Only the plebes formed there in front of the barracks. They wore sand and green camo with matching cap, light brown boots, and then a dark, warm jacket. A base and snare drum duet kept the beat as they marched orderly into the mess all. We were the only ones out standing at 4am California time. Later our cadet said that he said he saw us.

Before the lunch formation, we stopped by the Protestant chapel, called the Cadet Chapel, dedicated in 1910 and perched above the rest of West Point like a guardian angel. You get a brilliant view of the post, the fall foliage, and the bending Hudson River in the distance. We walked through the heavy double doors at the front entrance into the lobby. We plunked four quarters into a slot and took a calligraphy Cadet Prayer. Read it. You'll be amazed by some of the truths therein. I had become familiar with the prayer when reading the story of a former West Point superintendent, who landed at both Sicily and Normandy. He said that prayer got him through the war.

We walked into the chapel and it was quite a construction. I had seen nothing like it. I'm not for building these for church, but it was impressive that this structure sat where it did and that it was dedicated to God. I was happy. The one other person in the massive room sat at the other side of the two hundred foot aisle. Here's what Wikipedia says about the organ he was playing:

The Cadet Chapel organ, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, is the largest all pipe organ, in a religious structure, in the world. It is some 380 ranks, 874 stops, 293 voices, 23 divisions, playable across 4 manuals and pedal, with some 23,500 pipes. It is estimated to weigh over 124 tons. It is continually being enlarged. This organ is played for over 300 services each year. In the history of the Cadet Chapel there have only been four organists. There are public tours of the post and services are open to the public. The Association of Graduates sponsors a concert series free and open to the public.

The organist wasn't playing loud, but we watched and listened for awhile, peering around at the amazing stained glass windows, the story they told and how they related the Bible to the American soldier in pictures.

We walked out and drove down to the plain again to watch lunch formation. As they milled around forming their lines, the bells were playing hymns. Yes, hymns. The first was "Blessed Assurance," every verse chiming out over the entire, gigantic base. I wondered if these soldiers were thinking about what they were listening to. As we still waited, sitting on a bench next to the statue of Dwight Eisenhower, the next hymn came, and we gladly sat and hummed along with "All through the Night." Right before the drums began again, beating out their march into lunch mess, The Doxology peeled over all of West Point. Did you know that "Jesus Loves Me" was written for West Point cadets? Later we asked Kirk if heard these hymns. He said, "Yes," every day.

The plain where the parades occur is surrounded by statues of West Point legends, giving its name, Trophy Point. Next to the new library is a statue of Patton. George Washington, who first conceived of a national military academy, sits on a majestic horse right before the L-shaped barracks on the plain (see all the monuments in order in this slide presentation).

We saw our son later that night. We toured the West Point museum and Visitors Center. We sat and watched the parachute team float from a helicopter high in the sky and drop down onto targets on the plain. Two company soccer teams played a hotly contested match. We stopped in at the PX and commissary to get him some necessaries and then ate on post at Subway. Dad and mom gave the final hug and watched his figure disappear in the darkness. We headed toward Thayer Gate toward our next destination.

1 comment:

Don said...

Wow, that's absolutely amazing given the political correction movement afoot in the military. It's also encouraging to think that there is some overt Christian influence over the officers at least.