Colorado Springs residents are being asked to fly flags from now through April 18 in an effort to cheer on the Air Force Academy's quarantined Class of 2020 which will graduate without the usual crowd of well-wishers.

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Nearly 950 senior cadets have lived in isolation on the school's 18,500-acre campus north of Colorado Springs and will graduate six weeks early with a subdued ceremony aimed at giving them lieutenants' bars without raising the danger of coronavirus.

"Because of this, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC is spearheading efforts to rally the community’s support to help celebrate the cadets’ achievements," the chamber said in a news release Thursday.

The flags are what the academy's superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Siveria, asked locals to do amid the first graduation at the school that won't include crowds from Colorado Springs.

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Academy leaders were still working out details of the ceremony a week from Saturday, but what's known is that it will be a Spartan affair. Cadets will be told to stay safely apart for the rites and their parents will be watching over the internet.

The early graduation, the first for an American military academy since World War II, comes after academy leaders ordered the school's three lower classes to head home for online education. The seniors, who have training slots waiting for them as soon as they graduate, were kept on campus so they can join their comrades on active duty as soon as possible.

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Reggie Ash, who heads military programs for the chamber, said local leaders didn't want the cadets to leave town thinking their four years of work at the academy are unappreciated.

And the chamber cooked up a way to get that message straight to cadets.

"Display an American flag in your front yard between now and Saturday, April 18 and take a selfie with it," The chamber said. "Then share your photo to social media using #USAFAGrad2020."

The chamber asked people posting those pictures to also tag the chamber and the Air Force Academy's social media handles, so they can be shared with cadets.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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