Sign of normalcy: Families, cadets celebrate the Air Force Academy’s Class of 2021

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Falcon Stadium wasn’t packed shoulder to shoulder like in graduations past, but thousands of family members and cadets themselves piled in to the west side stands to celebrate the Air Force Academy Class of 2021.

1,019 cadets became commissioned officers as theY were dismissed under the roar of the Thunderbird airshow.

“I don’t think there is any emotion to describe how I’m feeling,” said Morgan Hicks as she hugged her friend Andrea Weiman.

Hicks and Weiman will both enter Space and Air Force intelligence training.

“It’s out of this world. We’ve been waiting for this for four years and it’s so surreal,” Weiman said.

The two are some of the 288 women graduating from the class.

“This has been a long four years but worth every second,” said Aryemis Brown, one of the class’s distinguished graduates.

Brown is an Academy Scholar with military and academic distinction. His next step is going to Oxford in preparation for a career in the Space Force.

“I am honored and humbled to have that but, I had a lot of people supporting me along the way,” Brown said.

The last year, at times, seemed longer than the first three. A pandemic changed how classes and life on the Academy functioned.

“We have good leaders, we rallied together as an entire school to lean on each other. That’s how we did it,” said Spencer Rohlwing, another distinguished graduate with military, academic, and athletic distinctions.

Of the graduates, there were 16 international students, including Jittiwat Sermsripong from Thailand and Zhivko Kolevski from the Republic of Macedonia. The two would keep each other accountable, working on projects on Saturday nights, in order to get to this day.

“Rise means to me, when you get tired, you have to rise up, gotta get to work,” said Sermsripong.

“Rise” signifies the Class of 2021’a exemplar, Brig. Gen. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner.

Risner’s is the lone statue in the terrazzo on the Academy grounds. A distguised career through World War II and the Korean War, Risner’s plane was shot down in the Vietnam War, and he was taken prisoner.

“It’s a big thing for our class,” said Kolevski. “It’s one thing that connects all of us.”

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