COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The US Air Force Academy's Class of 2020 will have a graduation ceremony much different from the experience of those cadets who've gone before them. To begin with, the date of the event was moved up by six weeks to April 18. It's the first time since World War II that a national service academy has moved up the date of graduation.
Social distancing guidelines have added some other changes. Rather than marching in unison into Falcon Stadium, the cadets will be safely spread out across the terrazzo to hear a video commencement address from Vice President Mike Pence before they take their oaths to become commissioned officers.
Perhaps most the most painful change is the statewide restriction on large gatherings. It means that the roughly 1,000 graduates won't have their friends and families here to celebrate with them.
"They all, at least for the last 4 years have been dreaming of this ceremony in Falcon Stadium and now instead they've got something much different where all their family and friends are watching on live stream," said Reggie Ash, the Chief Defense Development Officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
The Chamber is joining the Academy in asking the Pikes Peak Region to show their support for the graduate by flying the American Flag everyday from now through graduation day.
"Take a picture with it and then put it on social media," Ash said. "We want to help them make the very best of it and let them know how much we appreciate what they've gone through for the last 4 years."
Keeping the cadets' families at home also hurts our local economy. About 30,000 people usually visit Colorado Springs for an average of 5 days during graduation week. That amounts to a $25 million loss.
The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau supports the social media campaign. President and CEO Doug Price said he hopes some of friends and relatives of the graduates will consider shopping for gifts online from local businesses.
When sharing those selfies and flag photos on social media, the chamber is encouraging people to use the hashtag #USAFAGrad2020 so that the graduates will have an easier time finding them. If you tag @AF_Academy and @CSCEDC, they will share your posts on their feed as well.
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