For nearly 200 years the United States Military Academy at West Point has played a prominent role in shaping our nation's destiny. This fortress of democracy counts among its graduates many of the brightest and bravest leaders of all time.

A discussion of the influence exerted by West Point's progeny is not an academic or theoretical endeavor. The brave souls who passed through the hallowed halls of that great institution have in at least some measure directly shaped the lives of every man, woman, and child alive in the world today.

To illustrate the point one need look no farther than the Academy's Class of 1915-forever known as the "Class the Stars Fell On." Its ranks included Eisenhower, Bradley, Van Fleet, and many of the other World War II generals who led the free world to victory and saved humanity from Nazism and Fascism.

Though it may not boast quite as many luminaries as did its predecessor 50 years before, the Academy's Class of 1965 does have its fair share of standouts as well. When the Class of ''65 gathers at West Point this month for its 35th reunion its members will include Eric K. "Ric" Shinseki, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, and Daniel W. Christman, the Academy's Superintendent, two generals who have earned seven stars between them. It will also include Paul "Buddy" Bucha, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, this nation's highest military award, and Robert Jones, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, In the early '60s, when the members of the Class of '65 began their studies, the Vietnam conflict was still unheard of by most Americans. Four years later it was becoming the focal point of this nation's attention and virtually all of '65 served in the war.

When the classmates gather on the Academy's campus for their 35th reunion they will again walk through the historic buildings named for Pershing, Grant, Lee, and other distinguished graduates. The structure that will have the most meaning for them, however, will likely be the Cadet Gymnasium named for '65's First Captain Bob Arvin who, like 26 of his classmates, was killed in Vietnam not long after graduation.

Many of those who survived the fighting in Southeast Asia continued to serve Uncle Sam with multiple tours in Europe, contributing greatly to "winning" the Cold War. Today, while only a few members of the class continue to serve on active duty, many others are captains (if not generals) of industry or leaders in various professions. Most importantly, like all West Point graduates both before and after, they are among the most prolific and generous contributors to the well being and betterment of our society.

During their reunion the members of the Class of '65 will reminisce about their experiences at the Academy, honor one another for their accomplishments, and of course, remember their fallen comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

To help them reminisce about their cadet days they will find in the midst of their 35th reunion a 35-year-old car-one that has been garaged at the heart of West Point for almost four years. The Glen Green Corvette has been housed at General Christman's residence, the famous Quarters 100, whose previous occupants include Robert E. Lee and Douglas MacArthur. After its 30-year odyssey around the United States and Europe described below, the "Class of 1965 Corvette" returned to West Point, where it is a familiar sight throughout the campus and has often been put into service for parades and other spirit activities at the Academy.

For generations it has been an unwavering tradition at the Academy for soon-to-be graduates to purchase a car. Each senior class formed a purchasing committee and assigned representatives to make arrangements with the various car dealers in the area to display their newest offerings on campus.