They do splits in midair. They cheer, yelp and cut loose with hijinks entirely unbecoming young military officers, be they gentlemen or gentlewomen. But then again, as President Reagan found out firsthand at Annapolis this spring, graduation from the three U.S. military academies—Army’s West Point, Navy’s Annapolis and Air Force’s Colorado Springs—is a jubilant rite of passage. At Annapolis Reagan broke with tradition and shook hands with each of the 1,032 graduating midshipmen (including 75 women). The response was affectionate, including at least one kiss and an exuberant high-five. “He may have been a little taken aback, but he really seemed to enjoy himself,” says Naval Academy spokesman Dennis Boxx.
There was ample cause for celebration. The midshipmen and cadets had survived a grueling four-year apprenticeship. (The cost of putting one student through Annapolis is $126,000, West Point, $174,700 and at the Air Force Academy, $150,000.) The newly minted officers are ecstatically happy to be leaving. As Nancy Laurenzano, 21, said triumphantly after collecting her Naval Academy diploma: “We came, we saw, we kicked ass.”