On Saturday morning of our 35th Reunion weekend, we
came together in the Academy Chapel for a memorial service "in loving
remembrance of our classmates who have died, but will always remain alive in
our hearts."  Our Class President, Steve Duncan, delivered a powerful
address which touched the hearts and memories of the large crowd of
classmates, wives, family members, and friends who were there.


                 As is our custom, we have gathered this morning in this
beautiful Chapel to once again do two things.  First, to pay homage to those
classmates who are no longer with us.  Second, to reflect upon the passage
of time and the ways in which we have spent it; to think about where we have
come from, where we are today, and the things to which we have devoted our
    Since we last gathered here five years ago, much has happened in the life
of the nation and in the life of the Class of 1963.  The world is a
different place than that which existed then.  It is, of course, a
dramatically different place from that which existed when we arrived in
Annapolis in the summer of 1959.  Some of you may remember that it was in
that summer that Fleet Admirals Bull Halsey and William Leahy died and an
obscure heavyweight boxer from Sweden named Ingemar Johansson knocked out
the reigning world champion Floyd Patterson in the third round.  Our nation
was enjoying the welcome period of peace and prosperity that had existed
since the end of the Korean War only a few years earlier.  A World War II
hero and statesman named Eisenhower was guiding our nation's fortunes.

        It would not be long, of course, before our lives changed dramatically;
before we learned of the tensions of the Cold War, the dangers of a hot war
in Vietnam, and unprecedented instability at home.  During the Fall semester
of our First Class Year, the Cuban Missile Crisis gave us a sobering
reminder that we were training to become warriors, and leaders of warriors,
in the service of the nation.  In a little-noticed statement delivered the
month after we graduated, President Kennedy announced that despite his
concern over the way the South Vietnamese government had handled recent
Buddhist disorders, the United States was not going to withdraw its military
support of South Vietnam because a withdrawal would mean "a collapse not
only of South Vietnam, but Southeast Asia."

        Young men in their twenties, however, are usually less interested in
geopolitics and presidential announcements, than in the immediacy of their
own lives.  So were we.  As we set out to make our lives, we were
enthusiastic, anxious to get going, and brimming with confidence.  Since we
were born before or during World War II, we weren't part of the Baby Boomer
generation any more than we were a part of the Korean War generation.
Later, some observers suggested that we are a part of what has been called
the "Silent generation."  Whatever name is assigned to our time, we can take
great pride in the fact that the works of our Class have been anything but

        It has been said that there is a grace in the universe which stands with
men who face front.  In a Memorial Day address delivered in 1884, Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Jr., a thrice-wounded veteran of the Civil War and a future
Justice of the Supreme Court, put the matter this way:  "As life is action
and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and
action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived."  If that be
so, then our Class has seen grace up close, because we have certainly shared
the passions and actions of our time.  We have dared to match our spirit,
our minds, and our courage against the large issues of life.  The idea of
sacrifice for a worthwhile cause is no stranger to members of the Class of

        Since we received our commissions on that sunny day in June, now 35 years
ago, 13 of our classmates have been killed in Vietnam, three have died in
the sinking of the USS SCORPION, and one has been killed aboard the USS
LIBERTY.  Three classmates have been awarded the Navy Cross, many others
have received other distinguished combat decorations.  One classmate has
died in a plane crash while engaged in missionary work.  Several classmates
have died from the ravages of disease and illness, others in accidents.
Some 74 of our classmates are now gone.  Their names are listed in the Honor
Roll in your bulletin.  Their days of service are over.  For them, the call
to duty in this world will no longer be heard.

        Only now can we begin to understand fully what so many of our departed
classmates have missed and the magnitude of the sacrifices they made.  Only
from the perspective of our own full lives can we now appreciate the facts
that so many of them were given only a brief time to feel the warm arms of
their loved one; that so many of them never got to see the laughing faces of
their children growing up; never got to attend their kids' ball games,
recitals, graduations, and weddings; never had the opportunity to use their
skills and talents for even more service.  For us, the living, therefore,
our duty is clear:  To remember them always; to honor them by living our
lives in ways which will permit us -- in the words of the Midshipmen's
Prayer -- to stand before them, as well as before our loved ones and God,
"unashamed and unafraid."

        For those of our Class who remain here, there is much to be grateful for.
Eighteen of our number have attained Flag rank during their service in
uniform.  Others have made distinguishing marks in public service, in the
professions, as corporate executives, as teachers, and as members of the
clergy.  The service of many classmates has been less visible, but of equal
importance.  Many of our Class have served on church boards, as coaches of
youth sports teams, in scouting activities, as Reserve and Naval Academy
Blue and Gold Officers, in civic service clubs, and in many other community
activities.  Others have been leaders and participants in the fight against
multiple sclerosis and cancer, in our Class Foundation, and in other
charitable causes.  Many of the Class have donated large sums of money as
well as their time.  Perhaps the most important work has been performed by
classmates who have simply remembered the values that were engraved on our
hearts while we were midshipmen; classmates who have lived those values, and
who have passed them on to their children and to others.  Values like Honor,
Courage, Loyalty, Duty, Responsibility, Integrity, Accountability, and
Sacrifice are out of fashion in many corners of contemporary America, but
our classmates long ago recognized how much these values give meaning to life.

        It is not, however, only of those who shared our years in Bancroft Hall
that we think this day.  With indescribable tenderness we also think of our
wives and families; the precious loved ones who have shared the risks and
the sacrifices of our lives; who have inspired us, loved us, comforted us,
taken care of us, and who, in their own ways, have served the nation with
equal distinction.  These loved ones have long been as much a part of our
Class, as they have been of our lives.

        There are few things, it seems to me, which give as much satisfaction to a
man as belonging to something, or being a part of something, in which he
really believes.  It is a thing close to our collective hearts to be a part
of the traditions and history of this Academy and to be members of the Class
of 1963; to belong to a brotherhood which has considered service to the
nation and to our communities to be a professional duty, as well as a
personal privilege; to know that when we left this place 35 years ago, we
took with us a sense of what it is to be a leader and a core of operating
principles and values for life; to be a part of a group of men who have
demonstrated time and again the unique brand of loyalty which characterizes
our Class and which makes its members part of a family.

        As many of you know, during the last two years I have received from
classmates what can only be described as an outpouring of love and support.
Many who are here this morning have been a part of that outpouring.  I would
like to take special note, however, of the support I have received from a
particular classmate, support which illustrates the loyalty I referred to
earlier.  This classmate has called me regularly to see how I am doing, to
let me know that he is thinking of me, to offer support.  This kind of
outpouring would be remarkable enough in regular circumstances.  It has been
made more so by the fact that the classmate who has been worried about me,
has suffered from multiple sclerosis for 28 years and while calling me, was
in the process of moving to a facility that can provide continuous care for

        The associations of this day are, of course, not only triumphant, but are
also filled with joy.  Part of the joy comes from the inspiration of this
place and the memories that are a part of it.  I come here every week, but I
never fail to be inspired.  After all, it was here that most of us were
transformed from boys with potential, to young men of responsibility.  It
was here on the grounds of the Academy that we learned many of the values
that have guided our lives.

        This magnificent Chapel is my favorite place.  It has been a very special
piece of earth in the life of my family.  We all have different memories of
our time here together, but for me, one favorite recollection is that of the
Sunday morning services in the Chapel.  In my mind's eye, I remember vividly
marching along Stribling Walk and up Chapel Walk to the snappy beat of the
drum in the Academy Band and the vigorous notes of "Onward Christian
Soldiers."  I remember the wonderful, thundering sound of this organ, the
beautiful words of praise from the Chapel Choir, the reverent way in which
the Navy Hymn was sung by the Antiphonal Choir, and the pride I felt at
being a small part of an institution in which duty to God and to Country was
a fundamental element.

        Another reason for the joy of this day is the realization that even though
many in our Class have learned in a first-hand way the perils and costs of
service to country, their service has been marked by courage and honor.  It
is a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with classmates who have risked
everything, to serve others; who have remembered to be deaf to expediency
where principle is involved; who have sought not celebrity status, but to do
the right thing in difficult circumstances; who have made this world a
better place than it otherwise would have been.

        Finally, and most importantly, this day is marked with the joy that comes
only from the certain knowledge that for those of us who believe in the
promises of our Lord, the separation from our departed classmates and from
our loved ones, will be temporary.  No matter what the future holds for us
in this world, we can confidently shout those words which we will sing in a
hymn later in this service: "Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the
mist of strife, Joyful music leads us Sunward, In the triumph song of life."

        Classmates:  Today, we celebrate the lives of those who have gone before
us; today, we take pride in the fact that we and our loved ones have
contributed greatly to the life of our country and our communities; today,
we humbly thank God for lives sustained and enriched by our shared
experiences as members of the Naval Academy Class of 1963!  Amen.

USNA Chapel, 3 October 1998 -  The Honorable Stephen M. Duncan, President, Class of 1963

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