Graduation Day 2014 brings two big returns to the Air Force Academy

Graduation Day 2014 a return to tradition at the AFA

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - It was a return to tradition at the Air Force Academy as nearly 1,000 cadets became second lieutenants.

Graduation Day 2014 brought two big returns to the Academy.

The Thunderbirds were back in the air, and Vice President Joe Biden was back at the podium.

In his speech, Biden praised the cadets for their hard work and prepared them for challenges ahead in a world with shifting threats.

"A modern military needs not only great warriors, but it needs a special brand of strategic thinking that can only be learned in the thin air of Colorado Springs, and I mean that, I mean that. The burdens that will be placed upon you will exceed your physical capability and your personal bravery and require the keen intellect that marks you as special," Biden Said.

The Thunderbirds were back in 2014 to give an aerial salute to the 995 newly sworn-in second lieutenants.

America's ambassadors in blue were absent when the class of 2013 graduated thanks to the sequestration.

"The poet Thoureau said the bluebird carries the whole sky on his back. Well, you are Falcons, and you carry America on your back. You carry America on your back, and America will have your back forever. So may God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America," Biden said in his closing remarks.

The ceremony wrapped up with the iconic hat toss as the Thunderbirds screamed across the sky over Falcon Stadium.

For hundreds of kids, the hat toss is the highlight of the ceremony.

It's tradition for the cadets to fill their hats with cash before graduation.

When the hats hit the ground, the kids hit the ground running to gather up as many hats -- and as much money -- as they can.

In many cases, the kids are allowed to keep the hats. Cadets who want their caps back write their name and address inside.

As members of the class of 2014 take a big step forward in their Air Force careers, the Academy is getting ready to welcome a new class of cadets.

The class of 2018 is made up of 1,200 men and women and will arrive on June 26.

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