HUDSON RIVER SOJOURN - United States Military Academy
WEST POINT - The Hudson River dives deep here at this bend in the river. Almost 200 feet. After thousands of years, the river continues to cut through this Appalachian granite.
Before and during the Revolutionary War - and in the centuries since - the high prominence above the river has served as a strategic military post to keep enemy vessels from making their way any further up the river and to cities to the north including New York’s capital, Albany.
The river here is deep, but nowhere near as deep as the history of the Army military academy, much of it built out of the same granite.
The armed garrisons here predate the revolutionary war, and it has been active ever since, making West Point the nation’s oldest military installation in continuous service.
There’s no way to capture the immense history in a few paragraphs. But our views from the river as we passed on our trek northward, and a tour we took the following day, provided a few photos to provide a sense of place and history. They’re here, but earlier I referenced hip hop music so I have to finish that thought.
Hip hop and freedom
We docked in Newburgh a few miles upriver from West Point. We caught an Uber to the academy for an early tour.
Our ears were still ringing from the night before. The music on the restaurant deck about 50 yards away started at 4 p.m. with Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good - so good, so good, so good. Then came Credence and lots more from that era for us older folks. The music grew more contemporary as the sun set, darkness settled over Newburgh and the Hudson, and the older folks gave up their seats to the younger set.
That’s about when we fell asleep. But only for a couple of hours. Earlier the DJ said they would be rocking all night. He only missed daylight the next morning by a few hours. By midnight, the bass and the volume were both waxing, like the moon. I heard more hip hop music that night than all the other nights of my life combined.
The DJ hooted during the songs which he kept spinning back to back without break. The crowd danced and sang. Impossible to sleep. But when I started to get the feel for the songs - though I couldn’t understand what the artists were singing and rapping about - I started to appreciate the complex structure, the steady and repetitious beat of the drums and the heavy bass, and the occasional melodies that broke through from choruses of back-up singers.
The music was still blaring at 2 a.m. when we finally fell asleep.
The next time I awoke, the music had ended. The deck, miraculously, magically, carriage into pumpkin, was clear: the DJ gone, chairs stacked on tables, not a soul stirring.
The silence of predawn hours had taken over.
Peace. It was glorious. And so too is freedom of expression, difference of opinions. Freedom.
And that’s what West Point is there for. To build and train a military force dedicated and devoted to preserving the freedoms so vital to and inherent in the American experience.
And that too is why the least we can do is show steady support for the good men and women who commit themselves to our defense.