Fom Ralph Masi:
A full ten percent of our class — 70 of us — assembled on JULY 2nd, 2004, some 31 years after our R-day of 2 JUL ’73, at the beautiful Ft. McNair Officers Club in Washington D.C. The setting was magnificent — hazy, hot, humid…many of us perspiring through our business suits, either from the heat OR , the “recollection” of it all — with the glistening Potomac providing the perfect backdrop for replication of our entry into the Long Gray Line. Then — our honored guest arrived: LTG (Ret) Sidney B. Berry, “Sid” Berry, our Superintendant, the 50th Superintendant of the Military Academy, and a leader — and combat infantryman — without peer.
General Berry was (re)introduced to the class as one who partook of his own “R-day” some 60 years earlier, on 1 JUL ’44, while fierce fighting raged across two oceans. Commissioned into the Infantry on June 8th (same graduation day as ours) of ’48, he would soon lead men in battle in Korea with the 25th Infantry Division, and be decorated for valor for the first time of five, including four awards of the silver star. Commanding a battalion at just 11 years’ service, and a brigade, in combat with the 1st Infantry Division in Viet Nam at just 18 years service, he would be a general officer at just 20 years. In 1970, while in acting command of the 101st Airborne, he valiantly led his division through the ferocious, 23-day, NVA siege against his own firebase — Fire Support Base “Ripcord.” Commanding a division — the 101st, this time permanently — at just 25 years service starting in ’73, he became our Superintendant in 1974, at just 48 years of age. General Berry led the military academy through the most turbulent time in its history, led the West Point community and, West Point’s first classmen, in the weathering of those times, and went on to command V Corps in Germany before his retirement in ’80. He exemplified the concept of duty-honor-country like no other, and in both peactime and in war. This devotion would serve as his and his troops’ guide posts throughout his life, and throughout theirs — and, of course, throughout ours.
General Berry, standing with “back straight as a gun barrel” as usual, noted that it was his privilege — his honor, in fact — to have served with us during those times, times that strengthened the Military Academy, the way that heat tempers steel. He went on to note how much being with us this day meant to him, and how much his association with our class — ’77 — has meant over the years. He waxed eloquent in his treatment of those times, and the difficulties they wrought, and time and again, returned to the precepts that guided him from the start — duty, honor, and country. With the good Lord’s willingness, he noted, he very much hopes to be with us when we celebrate our 30th in Fall 2007. At the end of the day, we presented him a gift — a beautiful, inscribed, West Point “time piece,” to mark the event.
Special credit goes to Mike Keith for organizing, to Rich Harris and Marc Collins for admin support, to Les Kayanan and Mike Montelongo (now the “HON” Mr. Montelongo, an Asst Sec of the USAF) for our Music, to Dick Trotter and Mark Beck for photography, to Marc (Mr. AOG) Gunnels for a “USMA update,” to Joe Durso and Ken Miller for our moving invocation and benediction, to George Gotschall for our “memorabilia” display, and to JW Holbert and Steve Heinecke — WELL DONE, to all present, and, “accounted for.”