Coming Full Circle – Thoughts on Commissioning 2020

Commissioning… what to do? Well, needless to say, for the Class of 2020, Commissioning will be a very different experience both for the Firsties commissioning and for us, their families. Semper Gumby just took on a whole new meaning for the Class of 2020! 

Due to the corona virus, we will have to miss the memorable events that make the week unforgettable. But our family is also thankful that our Mids get to return to Bancroft one last time. They will receive the oath in person, in T-Court, where they began their journey when they took their Oath of office as Plebes. They will be able to share the moment with at least some of their friends and classmates, and hopefully walk out through the big bronze doors – one of the many things that marks the culmination of their four years at USNA.

I-Day 2020 Bancroft Hall bronze doors being shut.

Our now Firstie and our family was looking forward to the Grad ball the takes place on Wednesday of CW. She chose to forego attending the ball when she was a Plebe and her brother commissioned – probably to avoid wearing her mess dress! She wishes that she would have attended to this day. Oh well – maybe grandchildren one day? If anything, that should be an incentive for the Class of 2021 when it is their turn. Don’t miss any of the events because you never know if you will have a second chance!

CoVid made Commissioning Week a different event. What can we do to celebrate and make our Firsties’ Commissioning as memorable as possible?  Here are some ideas we are working with to help make the occasion special:

a) We are asking family and friends to send a short video clip with a personal message and congratulations for our Firstie. I am compiling all of these into a video to show on the 22nd. (Shhh!  It’s a surprise!). We are using a site called – they are currently offering their basic service for free and it is pretty neat and simple!

b) We are trying to mail our guest swag bags early so that our guests have them for Commissioning Day with the items that we have collected so far: The 2020 class crest challenge coin in an engraved coin box – my favorite! Also, Blue and Gold bead bracelets for the grandmothers and other special female guests, Midpins of our Firstie for the Grandmothers to wear during the ceremony, and a set of class year coasters for each family. Finally, a small framed picture of our Firstie as the ultimate keepsake. Michael’s has some cute silver frames for wallet size and larger size pictures that are perfect!

c) During Quarantine, I have been able to take some time for creative pursuits, so as I was sewing masks for family and friends, I also made tissue holders for guests to hold the tissues that guests will use to dry their tears of joy – even from far away! We inscribed wine glasses for the toast with “USNA 2020”, and we have the lip balms with the 2020 crest that we had ordered some time back (thanks Marni!). But all of this came together despite the situation. Let your creativity flow and not only will you enjoy your creations but you will also end up making some pretty cool things!

d) We are hosting a virtual toast with our guests after the ceremony. There are some other traditions, like the exchange of shoulder boards and Officer cover that are already in motion.  The private swearing in may or may not happen, but if not now, then at some point over the summer – we are hoping that somehow and at some point our Officer can swear in his sister.

e) Oh, and THIS time I am getting those pictures! And yes, I recommend a lot of pictures!

f) We are decorating with the gear we had on hand already, wear all of our Navy swag one last time, and hope to have our Firstie’s favorite meal ready for a nice brunch and time together. Feel free to share YOUR ideas in the Fb post comments.

2020 Class Crest

I have heard the saying “When you get handed lemons, make lemonade”, quite a bit lately. But I would rather think of it this way: I am thankful for the “gift of time” that as we parents have been given. Many of us have been able to enjoy a windfall of time together with our Firsties and Midshipmen.  When do we ever get to have a personal glimpse into their day, their study habits, to see them “in class” and doing their work for weeks at a time?  When do we get to fix them 3 square meals every day during the ACYear?  Let’s face it, we do not get to out-cook King Hall very often indeed!

Our path is definitely the  one less followed and also a most different journey.  It has been tough for us a parents – Our kids stopped being “ours” on I-Day. Overnight they “belonged” to the Navy and everything that it encompasses, so ANY time together is a bonus. With that said, they do still need us, count on us, and depend on us to support them, encourage them, pick them up, dust them off, and send them on when needed. And a hug now and then is always welcome – whether they admit it or not – and I am sure that they wil not hear any arguments from our side!

And it has been a full and challenging road for our Mids. Lots of responsibilities, activities, duties, physical training, and so much more, but I don’t have to tell you – you already know. So this truly is a great accomplishment and they have earned it. I also like to remember that our “training” as USNA parents will help us out tremendously as our soon-to-be-Officers go to the fleet. Things like OpSec, no news is good news, and active listening will reap a great harvest as we navigate the new world of a commissioned officer. I remember being on my son’s ship visiting and asking some of his friend is their years at USNa were at all helpful. They pretty much all replied that they did not realize it at the time, but the everything has a reason for being – all the memorization – Reef Points, Chow Calls, ProKnos, although seemingly innocuous, were actually great training for the quick memorization they need to do during their training and when on watch. Good to know!

So regardless of how we choose to celebrate our Firsties’ accomplishments and commissioning please know that there is NEVER a right or a wrong way.  Only what is right for you and your family is truly important – regardless of situation. This year of all years, please do what is meaningful to you and to your son or daughter.  We can even start our own family traditions to add to the mix!  How are you celebrating?  What new traditions are you starting? 

And to all of my fellow 2020 parents Thanks for your friendship, support, encouragement and for sharing this journey with me heart to heart. You are a blessing to me and our children are a blessing to our nation!! GO USNA Class of 2020 and GO NAVY!!

Based on the book, A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know by AN Shine. Copying in whole or in part without the prior written consent of the author is strictly prohibited. Copyright 2019.

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