Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going to West Point

Ian and I took the subway to Grand Central Station today to catch a train up to Cold Spring. We had originally planned to see Poughkeepsie and Vassar where niece Allison graduated. She suggested Cold Spring instead, said it's more interesting.
There are over 100 tracks for the diesel powered transit trains and our train is on track 32. Allison messaged us to be sure to sit on the left side of the train, which is the Hudson River side.

Just north of Manhattan the Hudson River looks like this and in fact, I remarked to Ian that the Tappen Ze bridge reminded me of the bridge from Astoria, Oregon to Washington on the Columbia, a wide slow river. This was not what I expected. Just north of here we passed Sing Sing prison, which is between the river and the tracks. Ian says that's where the expression "sent up the river" comes from.

I come from Big Sky Country, wide open spaces - big, wide open spaces. I was stunned when another north-bound train pulled up alongside of us and stayed for a miles-long stretch of our view. I was stunned that it was at most 18" from our train. Our friends Pete and Rena who live in Connecticut were meeting us in Cold Spring.
Pete wanted to show us West Point, and since he and Ian are both vets, I thought - yawn, okay. Not yawn! Rena had to pull me out of the historic museum to catch our bus tour, and I was just getting to the good part about the French and Indian War and it's role in the European Seven Years War.

I was unable to get any of the dramatic photos that I saw on postcards, but this is the mess hall where cadets are reputed to eat in unison within 20 minutes. Pete and Rena treated us to the guided bus tour - the ONLY way to see and hear West Point.

Our guide, a USAA graduate and wife of an active duty soldier-academic professor on campus, was our guide. I appreciated her insight. I thought West Point only trained Army officers for war. I had no idea that their requirements were so stringent and so scientific. The Army Corps of Engineers - doh.

This is the cadets chapel. The flags represent flags flown over combat, which is why the stars change on the American flags.
I was moved to tears on several occasions, but looking toward the back of the cadet chapel you can see the lighted candle on the right. It occupies a pew seat and represents the MIA soldier. That spoke to me, still does.
The bus tour did give us this - Trophy Point. The Hudson River is exquisite and this was probably the best inspiration point for us. I know it gets even better from here but we're not going to see it - this time.

Erin, our guide has explained many points, and again, this is the cadet chapel. She said that the chapel used to be mandatory and then in the 1970's that requirement was dropped, however, attendance has not. Yeah, I bit my lip then too.
Erin explained the symbolism that surrounds the cadet's parade field - there are many statues who memorialize specific ideals. What I can remember is that the left white house belongs to the commandant and the right one to the supervisor. I learned that West Point is actually a geographic name. The campus is a west point that juts out into the Hudson River and was strategic during the Revolutionary War, since they could defend by water from both sides. Some things really are simple.

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