Prepare to get a little misty.

naval academy hat toss
Prepare to get a little misty.
| Credit: Visit Annapolis/U.S. Naval Academy

"Hip-Hip! Hooray!"

"Hip-Hip! Hooray!"

"Hip-Hip . . . HooRAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!"

And into the air the hats go. The famous tossing of the "covers" marks the end of the U.S. Naval Academy's graduation ceremony and the culmination of Commissioning Week. It has been a tradition in Annapolis since 1912. Before then, graduates had to serve a couple of years as midshipmen in the fleet before they could be commissioned as officers, so they needed to (literally) hang onto their hats.

Now, the Naval Academy hat toss symbolizes the end of graduates' old lives and the beginning of their new ones as officers in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.

But there's a very special detail we never knew about until some friends in Annapolis clued us in. After the toss, children are allowed to race onto the field and try to claim a hat (or several if they're fast enough). Knowing that the kids will be taking their covers home after the ceremony, graduates often pin an inspirational quote or some money into the hat.

Where do the freshly minted U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officers get their new covers? As we say in the South, from "Mama'n'em."

After the commissioning ceremony, the graduates find their families, who present them with their new officer covers and shoulder boards. Can you even imagine being a mom or dad, holding those honors in your lap while you watch your son or daughter complete such an amazing step in life, knowing that you'll be the one to make that all-important presentation?

The cover toss first appeared in the Academy's yearbook in 1926, and we hope it remains a lasting tradition in Annapolis. What an incredible moment for newly commissioned officers to share, not just with their own families but with the whole community.

Here's saluting the next class of graduates from the Naval Academy—for their hard work, their commitment and courage, and their desire to be an inspiration to all those kids who dream of one day tossing their midshipman's hat into the air.

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Break out the crabcakes and the Smith Island Cake, we're heading for the Old Line State. And while we're there, we'll stop and pay our respects at the grave of Edgar Allen Poe.