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Thursday, April 18, 2024

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LIFE MATTERS: West Point and Class Reunions

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By Col. (Ret) Dencio Acop USMA ‘83

Our class — the Class of 1983 at West Point just celebrated its 40th reunion. It always feels great to visit the alma mater and reconnect with classmates and nostalgic memories. Each succeeding reunion, which occurs only every five years, gets even more meaningful. Have been attending since our 25th and was a bit disappointed that we missed the corps of cadets’ parade-in-review in honor of the class this time around due to bad weather. Per tradition, we honored fallen classmates, got updated by the leads of the academy’s core competencies all geared towards character leadership development, had our class meeting over luncheon, visited the class-endowed Firstie Club, had our class photo taken on the steps of Washington Hall and partook of the pre-game meal after, watched a home football game against Boston College (in ranger weather I might add), and socialized with each other as much as was possible with every opportunity. Also, the reunions have always given me the opportunity to bond with relatives in New York and New Jersey.

An allied member of the class from the Philippines , I returned to my home country after we graduated and served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for 26 years until O-6. I met my first wife Joji at West Point when I was a cadet. Unfortunately, I lost her to cancer in 2018. We were married 33 years and have three children who are now all independent. I remarried just this year and moved to the United States. I brought my second wife Joy, who is from Massachusetts, to the reunion where she saw West Point for the first time. She had a blast including a drench at Michie Stadium watching Army battle Boston College! If not for West Point, my life would have turned out very differently both personally and professionally. I was studying to become a civil engineer in my home country prior. From one reunion to the next, it always felt so nice to see once more the beautiful and nostalgic scenery of the rockbound highland home. I will see many familiar faces of classmates from years back that no age lines and silver strands could mask. It may have been our class’ 40th anniversary already but I knew you guys when you were just in your teens and early twenties. We studied late nights together, marched together, played sports together, flew to Fort Knox together, bussed to Philly together, jumped at Benning together, toured everywhere together, sucked it down together, and made it together. Over the weekend, I particularly bumped into classmates like Starr Parker, Jeff Won, Jeff Malapit, John O’Brien, Al Tuquero, Mike Crumlin, Gary Laing, Jim Markley, Bob Moore, Bob Carman, Clarence Gayagas, Joe Gruchasz, Adi Toth, Dave Couch, and Yeong-Tae Pak among others.

My classmate Frank Demith posted that at times he felt he had to pinch himself for reality check about being part of the West Point experience! For this country bumpkin from the Philippines, I surely feel the same way and more. I will always feel both proud and humbled to be a son of West Point, which has that history and vibe you can’t find anywhere else. Duty-Honor-Country, the Long Gray Line: They are indeed hallowed words aptly depicting this place of tradition and patriotic service. A developer of character leadership, West Point is one of a kind and second to none. It is truly a place of honor and greatness.

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