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Class of '59 honors grads with gold bars

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Retired Maj. Gen. Harold W. Todd, secretary of the Class of 1959, is the originator and "Class honcho" of the idea to inscribe the back of this year's second lieutenant bars with "1959-2009."

The Class of 1959 purchased the bars by special order from the Academy Clothing Sales store at the end of 2008.

"The engraving is on the underside of each bar so they may actually be worn, rather than merely kept as keepsakes," said General Todd.

The job was performed at the Jostens Award Division, Del City, Oklahoma. It included removing each set from its box, engraving each bar, then returning them to the box for return shipment. The Association of Graduates paid for shipping both ways.

The bars mark a tangible link between the two classes, signifying the continuity of heritage across a half century, given on the 50th anniversary of the first graduating Class. 

Success, General Todd said, has many fathers.

The AOG has sometimes given graduates their bars at the graduation ceremony, but did not plan to do so this year.

"It occurred to me that this would be a meaningful opportunity for the first "50-Year Class" to link with the first "50th Anniversary Class" in some tangible manner," the general said. "I cleared the idea with the Academy authorities and with the rest of the class. The Class of 1959 approved and authorized the funds necessary for the purchase and engraving."

Other than the ceremonial presentation made at the class reunion from our 1959's class president, Retired Lt. Col. Joseph DeSantis, to the 2009 Class President to Cadet 1st Class Greg Oswald, cadet commander of cadets, the graduates will probably all receive their bars at the squadron commissioning ceremonies on the night of 26 May.

Might this become an every 50 years traditional event?

"That's for others to decide." General Todd said. "Eventually, it may evolve to a 'Legacy Class' event."

Legacy classes are separated by 40 years rather than 50 years, a tradition undertaken by the AOG earlier this decade to align class colors between classes 40 years apart. It's working well, but it denied the first few graduating classes the opportunity to serve as legacy classes.

"We treat this as a singular event, which succeeding classes may or may not wish to repeat, without any pressure to sustain a 'tradition'," said the general.

"The Class of 2009 generally doesn't know yet, it is going to be more of a surprise," Cadet 1st Class Gregory Oswald said in early May. "I would like to tell my class first. But for the few who do know about it, including myself, we are humbled and feel it truly shows how the Class of 1959 feels about their alma mater and how important their connection to the Academy can be to future classes."

"The very fortunate part about this inscription is that it's done inside the bars so we will be able to wear them if we choose. I am sure many of my classmates will use these bars at their commissioning ceremony. I'm very sure that the Class of 2009 will want to repeat this gesture or a similar one 50 years from now," said the cadet wing commander. "The Class of 1959 has set the example of how alumni should be involved with and mentoring the future classes of the Long Blue Line."