ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — It’s graduation day at the U.S. Naval Academy. Hundreds of midshipmen became commissioned officers.

Weijia Jiang reports the class of 2012 is receiving a send-off from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

It’s been an emotional day at the U.S. Naval Academy, where 1,099 midshipmen got their diplomas.

“A lot of mixed emotions,” said Rajiv Stone.

This moment in time marks the end of a long journey.

“I’m just so proud of our class. I can’t believe four years have gone by. I’m going to miss everyone,” said Kathleen Ress.

For some Marylanders, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy is a lifelong dream come true.

“Butterflies in the stomach, excitement. Driving across the Naval Academy bridge this morning, you get choked up and everything,” said Michael McCarthy.

A moving day moved even more when Kevin Hillery got his diploma. He’s the first paraplegic graduate in history, overcoming the sort of challenges the Secretary of Defense spoke of.

Leon Panetta says enhancing presence in Asia is now the focus.

Among the graduates, nearly 300 were commissioned as officers in the Marines.

“It’s just a great culmination of all the hard work everyone in the class of 2012 has done,” said Nathan Jester.

Others in the Air Force and Coast Guard were all brought together one last time during the 100th hat toss to seal the day.

All of the graduates will serve at least five years. They’ll be scattered all over the world.

This year’s class includes graduates from 12 foreign countries.


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