Mary MuellerMay 27, 2017, 5:35 pmMay 28, 2017, 6:07 am

West Point hosts graduation with Secretary of Defense as speaker

More than 600 cadets received diplomas from the US Military Academy; they will serve in the Army as 2nd Lieutenants

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More than 600 cadets received their diplomas Saturday at West Point, and almost all of them are going on to serve as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

Some, like David Farr and Jett DiPalma, are from the Hudson Valley and Tri-State area.

“It was ecstatic,” said Farr, of Cornwall. “Very cool to have this experiencing with all my classmates.”

"I am going to be an aviator. I am going to fly helicopters. I am heading down to flight school,” said DiPalma, from Highland Falls. “I am just so thankful for all these wonderful people, from my town, community from my family."

These young men and their fellow cadets went through rigorous training while balancing their academics, and today they say it feels like it all paid off.

“It feels like I am just achieving my dreams,” said Brian Nepogoda of Queens.

The graduating class features more than 150 women. FiOS1 News watched as cadets Danielle Cuomo of Valley Stream and Nicole Perri of Cortlandt Manor walked across the stage.

At the start of the ceremony, the cadets marched in from each side of Michie Stadium to a packed house of thousands.

Their commencement speaker was U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who says the class of cadets will help reinvigorate the army and are needed more than ever to fight the war on terror.

"You graduate the same week that saw the murder of 22 innocent young lives,” said Secretary Mattis. “Manchester's tragic loss underscores your purpose and training at this elite school."

FiOS1 News caught up with Secretary Mattis following his speech, but he declined to do an interview, and instead spoke with the students.

Cadets seemed overjoyed to meet one-on-one with the secretary and excited to start the next chapter in their careers.

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