Forged in Blue

Melting of rings connects classes across generations

by Sam Hastings

The Association of Graduates and Air Force Academy Foundation hosted the sixth annual Forged in Blue ring melting ceremony at Doolittle Hall on Aug. 8, 2023.

This tradition strengthened the relationship between the Air Force Academy Class of 2025 and its Legacy Class of 1975. Members of both classes attended the ceremony, where five rings were donated to be added to the rings that will be made for the second-class cadets.

The rings were melted down into two gold ingots. The first ingot becomes part of the Forever Ingot and is used at next year’s ceremony, while the second ingot is sent to Jostens to be included in the rings produced for the Class of 2025.

Each ring was treated with reverence as they were brought forward to be added to the crucible. Members of the Class of 2025 assisted in presenting the rings and witnessed the creation of the ingots. As each ring was given, comments were shared from the donors regarding their experience at the Academy and the personal significance of their class rings.

One of the five donated rings belonged to Col. (Ret.) Edward Kasl ’75, who sent written remarks emphasizing the pride he felt when he first received his ring and the honor of donating his ring nearly 50 years later.

“To the Class of ’25, it is an honor to donate a class ring to be melted down so that it can become a small portion of each of your class rings,” Kasl wrote. “I looked at mine with pride and the knowledge that it took hard work and determination to complete four years of academics and training to earn the right to wear it and call myself a graduate of one of the finest institutions in the world.”

Mr. Jim McBride ’75 wrote a letter highlighting the inclusion of gold from Legacy Class rings as a symbol of the unbroken bond among Academy graduates and the pride he now takes in donating his ring to the Class of 2025.

“As I reflect back on my time at the Academy, receiving my class ring was one of the highlights,” he wrote. “It symbolized not only my connection to my class, but also to the Long Blue Line of alumni who had preceded and who would follow me. I’m proud and honored to be able to contribute this ring to the Class of 25 as a reminder of our common heritage and as an inspiration to always do your best in every endeavor.”

Mr. John Koelling ’75 also sent written remarks stressing the rarity of the rings and how proud he was to donate his.

“When I think back on my time at the Academy, there were very few things I anticipated or was more excited about than getting my class ring,” Koelling wrote. “For a lot of reasons, the Class of ’75 had a huge attrition rate. As I recall, it was nearly 50%, so there aren’t a lot of rings available to be a part of yours. All that said, I am honored to present my ring as a small contribution.”

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bruce Mitchell ’75 was in attendance and spoke about the literal and symbolic meaning of the rings.

“Inside this smelting crucible today, the gold from these rings will separate from other physical components and embellishment compounds that went into the making of the rings and be available as raw material for your new class rings,” he said. “But also from this crucible, and I want you to at least figuratively imagine this and take this in … 50 years of residual blood, sweat and tears from the classmates who have preceded you are also going to evaporate into the atmosphere. So, try to seize a little of that because you might need it in the future.”

Mitchell also expressed the importance of the ceremony and how it formalizes the connection and continuation of the Long Blue Line.

“May the gold from these rings seal the relationship between our two classes from this day forward,” he said. “We trust that you will also make the rest of the nation and the rest of the Long Blue Line proud in your service to the country as you depart the Academy and defend our land for years to come.”

Mitchell also spoke on behalf of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Dick Webber ’75.

Gen. Webber wrote a letter to the Class of 2025 noting the importance of relationships and the bond shared by Academy graduates.

“We were forged in fire and are still the closest of friends 50 (plus four) years later. Treasure that friendship — it is a very special relationship, and few people will ever experience that level of camaraderie and bonding,” he wrote. “My bride, Lt. Col. (Ret) Michele Golley, and my three sons are all on board with this donation. The idea that gold from my ring — at the atomic level — will be in your rings and every class ring from now on was the key factor in their support. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish all the best and success in the future to the Class of 2025. The baton is passed, and our nation is counting on you.”

As the ingots cooled, representatives from both classes shared a toast to the past, present and future of the Air Force and Space Force.

“This was not a tradition when we were here,” Col. (Ret.) Kent Traylor ’75 said. “This was started well after we left here. So, it’s great to see the Academy keeps old traditions, but they also bring in new traditions that have special meaning to all of us.”