By Rebekah Secrist
On Friday, February 28th, the majority of female R-MA cadets will desert the school almost exactly at high noon to prepare for the most anticipated, magical, and romantic time of year: the annual Military Ball.
The military ball is one of the most exquisite of all military traditions. A year’s worth of planning goes into what is prom’s greatest rivalry. It is an enigmatic time where the girls are free to shake off their rigid uniforms and don captivating gowns. “It’s such a freeing night,” Faith Funderberg ’14 said. “We’re always in uniforms and studying. When we’re at the ball, we’re beautiful.” It’s true! The men never get to see the ladies in normal clothes, or even a dress, let alone with their hair all done and makeup on. Louisa Stanwich ’14 knows all about how this day goes down.
“No one gets nervous up until that Friday morning,” she said. “After a half-day of school, we go our separate ways. There’s something different in the air though. The next time the guys see us, we’ll be beauty queens.”
Beauty queen is right! The R-MA ladies have quite the reputation this time of year at various hot spots for the five hours of time they have to get ready for the night ahead. Peebles does their makeup for free, and Tres Bella Day Spa and Boutique even offers the R-MA girls a 15% discount!
The dresses are another spectacular part of this event, and with the only restriction being that the dresses have to be floor-length, the girls go all-out in finding the perfect dress for the perfect evening. Jessica Neupane ’15 will be wearing a dress from Cache this year, and she described the moment the gentlemen are reunited with the beautified ladies. “The guys finally get to see what we look like!” Neupane laughed. “There’s a fuzzy tension when you walk up in front of your date, and they’ve never seen you in a dress.” Roop Atwal 15’ of India will be adding her own touch of tradition to this momentous occasions and will be wearing a traditional Sari dress. “It’s going to be black with silver embroidery,” Atwal said. “It’s going to be custom made and my Aunt is having it sewn for me in India.” Atwal’s favorite part of the day is the pampering session all the girls enjoy together before returning to campus to meet up with their dates.
After being reunited, tradition starts off the night. All of the seniors (and any other student whose date is a senior) are properly announced and ascend arm-in-arm through the military sabre arches into the ballroom at the Shenandoah Country Club where–before dining on possibly the most exquisite food the students will have all year–the men introduce their ladies to all the heads of R-MA, starting with the president and his wife, Major General and Mrs. Maury Forsyth, USAF retired. After a brief welcome speech from the General and a toast for the seniors from the cadet corps commander (Ben Gillis ’14 gets to do the honors this year), the food is elegantly presented.
As always, the men are expected to treat the women like ladies, and certainly at this point the gentlemen are grateful for the additional etiquette classes that Col McManus gives them the week leading up to the ball. A band is always there and dancing is a must; whenever the young adults need a break, they are free to help themselves to the delicious dessert buffet and/or walk outside on the patio.
An immense amount of preparation goes into the ball. Caitlin Bunker ’14 is head of the military ball committee and has spent the entire school year leading up to the event taking care of the necessary preparations. “This is like our senior prom,” Bunker said, “It’s only different because it’s more formal.” Bunker claims to have had no idea how much effort went into making the ball a night to remember before being on the committee. “We make sure all the seniors have someone to go through the sabre arches with, and we need the general to approve of any variables, like the theme or colors.” The themes change every year. A few years ago it was Love in Paris; last year it was an Italian theme. This year, the theme is sporting the Air Force colors of Navy Blue, white, and silver. “So much is rigid and structured for us,” Bunker said. “But for a few beautiful hours, we get to relax a little bit and celebrate being young and beautiful.”