Pence In, Parents Out for Socially Distanced Academy Graduation

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Outside, on the grass, eight feet apart. No parents allowed. High-fiving strictly prohibited.

Air Force Academy traditions will be modified Saturday, when Vice President Mike Pence is to address a pandemic-altered commencement ceremony. The cadets themselves helped make decisions about the restrictions, Mike Slater, spokesman for the Academy, said Wednesday.

The roughly 980 graduates will be spaced out when they march in and will be seated eight feet away from one another on a grassy terrazzo instead of Falcon Stadium.

Photo by Chet Strange / AFP via Getty Images
Cadets march onto the field during the 2019 graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

There will be a bare minimum of brass and dignitaries, including Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, and Pence, who initially scheduled a virtual appearance but now plans to be in Colorado Springs, Colo., in person.

The Thunderbirds will do the customary flyover, and the cadets will be allowed to toss their hats into the air as long as they maintain safe distances from each other.

“The plan is to go back to the traditional ceremony next year,” Slater said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Loren Duggan at

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