Today, we have a Special Edition of the Vibrant People of Elkhart County.
We want to offer a graduation salute to Gabriella Lucchese, our Vibrant Ensign from Elkhart County.
Later today, when a thousand or so white hats sail into the Annapolis sky, Gabriella Lucchese and her classmates are ending their time as students at the U.S. Naval Academy. The tossing of the “covers,” as the hats are called, is a tradition at the Academy that has carried on for over 100 years. For Gabi, it will be the culmination of what she says has been a “challenging and transformational experience” and she is ready for the next phase of her life.
Starting today, Gabi is an Ensign in the Navy. She has been assigned as a Surface Warfare Officer on the U.S.S. Essex and will be based in San Diego. She says she was lucky to be able to select the location. Her friends at the Academy had told her they would never come to visit if she opted for any place else. (Midshipmen can be pretty tough on each other, even when they are kidding.)
At Annapolis, Gabi has been involved in many aspects of campus life. She was the President of the Academy’s International Ball (I-Ball, for short). She was also the 1st Regimental Executive Officer, serving as second in command of over 2,000 Midshipmen.
Graduation from the Academies is often bittersweet. As Gabi tells us, you become extremely close with your classmates. Together, you have gone through four years that have tested you in every way imaginable. You are then shipped out all over the world.
Gabriella graduated from Elkhart Central. She says that growing up in Elkhart, she had “the most American childhood I can think of.” She did the things kids do. She went to school, played soccer, hung around and worked in the family business.
When you talk to a Lucchese from Elkhart, you learn quickly they all say they “come from a huge Italian family” and that “everybody knows everybody.” Of course, when you are a Lucchese from Elkhart, you are also only one degree of separation from about everybody else. The family ties are strong and their support for each other is solid.
As is Annapolis tradition, once the hats are thrown, children are allowed to rush onto to the field to grab a souvenir. Midshipmen have been known to place a secret message into their hat for the one who finds it. Gabi says she will do that, but she’s not telling us what she plans to write. She also plans to add $20.19. Good luck, kids.
Symbolically, the tossing of the covers means that the first stage of the graduates’ lives in the Navy is over. It also means a brand new hat is needed.
Where does a newly minted officer get her replacement cover? From her family, of course. Can you imagine the feelings Gabi’s parents, Pat and Mary will have as they watch the graduation ceremony holding their daughter’s new cover and shoulder bars in their laps? Their pride in Gabriella is already immense. We can only imagine how momentous the occasion will be.
This weekend, we will be remembering those who were lost in service to our country. Serving in the military is a special calling and we are grateful for those who need it. Thank you, Gabi and all of you who have answered the call. Bless you.