Officials at West Point had ordered all their students to stay at home at the end of spring break in March, due to the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, and were studying how to handle graduation and other associated events for seniors when Mr. Trump preempted them with the announcement he would speak at ceremonies set for June 13. The Naval Academy had decided it was too dangerous to recall its nearly 1,000 midshipmen to Annapolis and opted instead for a virtual event. The Air Force Academy moved up its graduation, sent underclassmen home and held ceremonies with cadets seated eight feet apart and parents watching at home.
The decision to go ahead with ceremonies at West Point, pushed back from the original date of May 23, means the recall of 1,000 cadets who are scattered across the country. They will travel into airports in New York and New Jersey, states that have been hit hard by the pandemic, to a location that is 50 miles north of the pandemic’s epicenter in New York City. They will have to undergo testing and face up to three weeks of quarantine in campus barracks, perhaps one person to a room. Partial audio recording obtained by The Post of a video call made by a West Point instructor to a group of 25 cadets April 21, four days after Mr. Trump announced his plans, has raised concerns because of the instructor’s estimate that as many as 60 percent of the class might have the coronavirus, and the uncertainties that still surround this disease and the reliability of testing. Military officials insist they can safely hold the graduation, making the feeble argument that cadets would have had to return to pick up their belongings and get future orders.
Why, though, increase any chance of spreading the virus? Why take any risk with the health of the future leaders of the country’s military? Is it really worth the costs and inconveniences? The answer, of course, is that Mr. Trump won’t pass up the chance to give a showy election-year speech amid the military pomp he seems to value much more than the men and women who are willing to lay down their lives.