One after another, these golden symbols of Duty, Honor, Country were gently placed in the unique crucible centered on the table. The table was neatly arranged with the photos and information of every single donor. The ringʼs donor or its representative then came to the position of attention and saluted, and for many of these donors, it was their final roll call.
The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) conducted its annual Ring Melt ceremony on Friday at Eisenhower Hall Theatre.
“This ceremony truly capsulated the meaning of the Long Gray Line,ˮ Class of 2023 Class President Melic Belong said. “Itʼs incredible to be a part of something so sacred and timeless.ˮ
He added that now he has a greater understanding of what this ring ceremony means to the donors, families and the Class of 2023.
“I had an idea of what this event would be like,ˮ Belong said. “But this was such a wonderful connecting experience for everyone here.ˮ
This year, 71 class rings were donated to craft the Class of 2023ʼs class rings, which brings the total to 740 donated rings since 2002. Also, this year had the highest number of rings to be donated in one year, spanning the Classes of 1909 to 2004.
“This ceremony means so much to me and so many people,ˮ said Cathy Kilner, a 1990 USMA grad and the WPAOG director of Class Services. “More and more people are donating rings because of what this ring represents.ˮ
She went on to say that this is where her ring is going when she passes, and her family already knows it.
Kilner, who was the key in the planning and executing the ceremony said, “The WPAOG’s Class Ring Memorial Program (CRMP) links past and future members of the Long Gray Line.ˮ
“Everything done here was done very purposefully so that there are all these connections,ˮ Kilner said. “If the donor was from a certain company, we made sure the cadets here were also a part of that company.ˮ
She explained that they were continuing the tremendous, long legacy of West Point when the donors came and spent time with the cadets.
The donors, families and members the Class of 2023 shared a meal and a few stories with each other through the day, solidifying the eternal bond that was being established. Forever will this class relate to those members of the past.
After the last name was read and the ring placed into the crucible, Belong added gold shavings from every Ring Melt since the first one in 2002.
The rings were then be taken to the Bartlett Hall Science Center to be melted down into a gold ingot. The ingot was brought back to Eisenhower Hall and presented to an applauding audience.
The entire ceremony took a little more than three hours, but the memories will last a lifetime for these cadets.
“I will never forget today,ˮ Belong said. “I am so thankful that many of my classmates were able to be here today to see the rings.ˮ
The next time that these cadets will see this gold will be Ring Weekend at Trophy Point in August.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, every donor received a handwritten letter from a cadet from the Class of 2023 to show their appreciation for the donations.
“It is so special to have this connect with those who went before us,ˮ Belong said. “For them to trust my classmates and I with the responsibility to safeguard this legacy is very impactful.ˮ