The festivities began Friday with the MMA-sponsored "FOREver MMA" Homecoming Golf Tournament and Luncheon. Proceeds from the annual event, an 18-hole tournament featuring a new location (Arthur Hills Golf Course) and four-player scramble, benefited the Mexico Help Center and the MMA Athletic Department.
Following an Alumni Association-sponsored Tailgate Party and Pep Rally, the MMA football team burst onto Colonels Field through a larger-than-life banner to face off against the Harrisburg Bulldogs. MMA Fighting Colonels football alums – including John Park ‘86, Michael Leach ‘66, Dan Passick ‘66, Steven Butner ‘87, Felix Ware ’86, Mike Royer ‘66 and Jeff MacLellan ‘66 – took the field for the coin toss prior to the start of the game.
For a recap of the Homecoming football game, which was narrated by alumnus Jorge Infante ’87, please visit the GoColonels MMA athletic website.
Immediately after the conclusion of the game, the festivities briefly halted for the somber Silver Taps ceremony at twilight. As an announcer read the name of each MMA community member who passed away during the 2015-16 school year, a cadet ignited a light in the deceased individual’s honor. From the vantage point of the bleachers, the letters MMA were revealed on the parade field.
REVIEW & DRILLDOWNS
Up next were drilldown competitions, narrated by LTC Paul E. Gillette ’70, pitting former and current cadets against one another. Several dozen alumni faced off, with John Schuchmann ’86 earning the trophy for best-drilled alumnus. Schuchmann and nine of his fellow alumni next faced MMA’s best-drilled current cadets: seniors Jose Balanza, Gabriel Elizondo, Ramon Rodriguez and Juan Diego Silva; and juniors Juan Pablo Cepeda, Francisco Fletes, Victor Arturo Leon, Victor Armando Leon and Gabriel Vallejo. Cepeda outlasted all but three alums, eventually falling short – Schuchmann was thus declared the winner of both drilldowns.
Guests next switched gears as well as locations, moving from the parade field to the Memorial Chapel for the annual Homecoming Convocation. The assembly honoring alumni achievements began with remarks from outgoing Alumni Association President Jeff Kays ’84, who passed the gavel to president-elect Todd Helm ’80.
Kays, a Missouri attorney, nine-year MMA cadet and two-time Alumni Association president, then presented the Alumni Service Award to Claiborne “Tex” Dodson ’56.
“I’m sure you’ve seen Tex with his trademark cowboy hat and his boots,” Kays said. “He has been generous with his money and has [given] many thousands of dollars to the Academy over the years.”
Dodson, a lifetime member of the Alumni Association, served as Alumni Association President in 2006 and 2007. His gifts to the Academy include the “Greatest Books” collection in the MMA library featuring one hundred famous works of Western literature.
Following performances by the MMA Cadet Chorus, Academy President Charles McGeorge took the podium. McGeorge received a standing ovation for his remarks on the future of MMA and the military school market. Additional addresses were given by MMA Adjutant COL Rick Grabowski, USMC (Ret.); CSM Gabriel Elizondo ’17; and Director of Development Kevin Quinn.
Shortly following the Homecoming Convocation, the crowd gathered near the flagpole for a ceremony to re-dedicate a plaque honoring MAJ Samuel R. Bird ’57.
One of MMA’s most celebrated alumni, Bird volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War, receiving two Bronze Stars and the Air Medal. He commanded the honor guard at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and was an OIC at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On his 27th birthday, he suffered a serious gunshot wound which kept him confined to his home in a wheelchair until his death in 1984.
MMA honored Bird in the 1980s with a plaque but, during the demolition of the old and construction of the new Stribling Hall, the plaque was stored away for safekeeping.
Following the MAJ Bird plaque re-dedication, alumni formed up with the Corps of Cadets and marched to the dining hall for lunch. Later that afternoon, the MMA Fighting Colonels soccer team faced Soldan International at the newly-renovated Soccer/Parade Field. Thanks to a lone goal from junior Pedro Da Rocha at 30 minutes into the match, MMA clenched a win 1-0.
DECORATION CONTEST & PICNIC
Delta won the Barracks Decoration Contest for the second consecutive year thanks to their inventive decorations and maroon and gold color scheme. Delta’s lawn featured streamers, banners, a “mowing over the competition” display, mannequins and sports props including trophies, lacrosse helmets and football pads.
Charlie Company chose a sports theme, incorporating trophies and props from football, tennis, soccer and baseball. Band Company created a helmet-shaped arch with maroon and gold balloons, choosing a unique “KISS the Bulldogs and the Tigers Goodbye” theme with hand-painted wooden signs featuring members of the band KISS.
After a short break, Saturday night’s festivities concluded with the third annual Homecoming Picnic on the front lawn featuring a cash bar, catered dinner and performances from the MMA Jazz Band and the Norm Ruebling Band.
New additions to the Homecoming schedule this year included the Farewell Breakfast Buffet fundraiser for the Band trip to Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning. Dishes included traditional breakfast items as well as an alumni favorite: MMA SOS, or chipped beef and gravy on toast. Homecoming concluded with a march at the local Walk Back in Time Festival.