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The History of “The Call to Serve”: Experience the Excitement!

Feb 8, 2023 10:00:00 AM

For many of the one million plus people who walk through the gates of the U.S. Naval Academy each year hoping to get a glimpse at what makes this place so special, “The Call to Serve” movie at the USNA Visitor Center is their first good look at midshipmen life. When you enter the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, you’ll find this movie in its own theater. Approximately twelve minutes long, it plays every fifteen minutes throughout the day, starting at 9:00 AM and continuing until the last visitor leaves at 5:00 PM. It’s estimated that  85,000 people take the tours annually, and a significant number of them also watch, “The Call to Serve.”

The Story of Honor, Courage and Commitment

The movie opens with iconic shots of the Academy enhanced with this voiceover: “The call has gone out from the time of John Paul Jones and the American Revolution. Throughout our history, tens of thousands of young men and women have heeded the call and served our nation in the Navy and Marine Corps. The call has gone out to citizens from all walks of life, from all backgrounds. And the call has been answered…. without question… without hesitation… without fail. 

Honor… Courage… Commitment… These are the values that keep our country free… And these are the values instilled in the young men and women who have answered, "The Call to Serve.”

Those twelve minutes are some of the most powerful minutes you’ll experience. The movie has evolved over the years, and now it not only immerses you in Brigade life, but also inspires many to come be a part of it. There are moving clips of the milestones of life at the Academy. Viewers see monumental events like the start of Plebe Summer, the roar of the gravity-defying Blue Angels flight demonstration team, the immense passion of exciting football games, the hands-on, team-building summer training cruises, the grueling demands of Sea Trials and much more. They walk right alongside the midshipmen, learning about their academic curriculum, physical training events and much more—all the way through to the joyous culmination of Commissioning Week, when they graduate and become junior officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. 

How “The Call to Serve” Has Changed

Visitors are encouraged to watch “The Call to Serve” before they embark on any one of the Naval Academy Business Services Division (NABSD)’s numerous tours from the USNA Visitor Center in order to get a lay of the land before they explore the Yard. This video always leaves them excited to explore the Academy—and like the Academy, the movie has also evolved over the years. It’s the fourth iteration of a series of films created to introduce visitors to USNA. 

The first video was called “To Lead and to Serve.” It was produced in the mid-1980s by Empire Video thanks to a gift of $250,000 from the USNA Class of 1965. Captain Jim Minderlein, president of the class and recently retired 2-year USNA Tour Guide Supervisor, notes that his class has played an integral role in three of the past films. While the first film was very popular, he says, its primary focus was to instruct the general public on what takes place at USNA. The second film, he explains, was then replaced by an updated version called “Leaders of Character,” also produced by Empire Video and directed toward prospective midshipmen. It was also sent out to guidance counselors as a recruitment tool. “It was an excellent film.” Minderlein says. 

After this video, USNA commissioned another video which is the one we watch today, “The Call to Serve.” To ensure that it’s kept current, this film was created in-house by the Multimedia Support Center. Since the first one was so successful, the most recent film was modeled after that one. “It’s been very well received by the visitors,” Minderlein says. “It’s a well-done short film that gives visitors a look at four years and what takes place each year—and a good idea of what midshipmen life is like. It’s very informative and very popular.” The theater in which the movie is screened is also periodically refreshed, with the most recent addition being high-definition video and audio equipment.

Related: Watch “The Call to Serve.”

Heed the Call with a Naval Academy Tour

Not only is the movie a great introduction to the Academy, but the USNA tours offered on the Yard are excellent ways to enjoy USNA and Annapolis history and culture. You’ll see the incredible Beaux-Arts architecture, learn the fascinating stories of these places, see the midshipmen as they work and train to be future U.S. Navy and Marine Corps leaders and become a part of living history. Additionally, when you tour the Yard, you’re giving back to the Brigade, since all profits go to the midshipmen. Whether you take a tour, shop in the USNA Gift Shop, on Navyonline.com or at the USNA Midshipmen Store—or dine at The Alley or at 1845 Coffee, you’re helping to support the women and men that support our freedoms. Come see “The Call to Serve” and feel the power of this special place.

Tour the Yard!

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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