During the last week of May, commencement exercises were held at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Here's a snapshot of the time-honored ceremonies as well as the joy -- and relief -- expressed by some of the hardest-working college students in America.
West Point 2011 (Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
We start with the oldest service academy, West Point, founded in 1802 because the Army wanted some decent engineers and artillery officers.
While several generals have been elected president of the United States, only two -- Ulysses S. Grant (Class of 1843) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (Class of 1915) -- were West Point grads. The presidents of at least two other countries -- including Jefferson Davis (Class of 1828) -- went there.
This year West Point graduated 1,031 second lieutenants -- including 16 combat veterans.
Click here to see a Defense Department photo essay on the Military Academy graduation.
Annapolis 2011 (Photo by Navy Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien)Next is the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, founded in 1845 partly because of a controversial shipboard trial for mutiny.
While six of the last 10 presidents have been Navy men (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush the elder) only one -- James Earl "Jimmy" Carter was an Annapolis grad (Class of 1946).
Look closely at the grads lining up in the above photo and you'll see some are Marines in the dress blue blouse.
Or look below to see the Marines taking the oath as officers during the Naval Academy commencement.
Annapolis 2011 (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie Cullen)
The Naval Academy had 1,006 graduates, including 800 men and 206 women, in 2011. Of those 1,006, 260 were commissioned as Marines.
While one of the oldest armed services, the Marine Corps does not have its own four-year academy for training officers. Instead, cadets at the Naval Academy can elect to take Marine Corps commissions. After graduation at Annapolis, they are shipped off to The Basic School at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.
Click here to see a photo essay on the Naval Academy graduation.
Colorado Springs 2011 (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)
The newest service academy is the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Founded in 1955, the Air Force Academy is famous for the modern architecture of its chapel. This year the academy graduated 1,021 officers. The Class of 2011 was also the first to earn wings for remotely piloted aircraft.
If you click on this photo to enlarge it, you will see among the flying hats, the F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's precision aerial demonstration team.
Click here to see a photo essay on the Air Force Academy graduation.