NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2023 entered Cadet Memorial Field forming a sea of white.

Their service now takes on new meaning after four years of rigorous academic, military and physical training.

The class’s Distinguished Graduate First Class Christine Groves, who is the first to be both a Truman and Fulbright scholar, channeled The Hobbit in her speech which stressed inclusion and gender equity.

“Just as the Fellowship of the Rings set off to change their world,” Groves said. “We set off to change ours.”

Aiden Arsenault, who is a mechanical engineering major like Groves, is one of 11 graduates from Connecticut.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said about graduating.

His father Alan Arsenault, a 1988 Coast Guard Academy graduate, was on stage as his son received his degree and commission.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” his father said. “It was an honor being out there today.”

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the graduates.

“America gave us refuge and opportunity,” he said.

He talked about his family’s immigration from Cuba and how he’s inspired by his parents. He told graduates they are now leaders of the Coast Guard — and of their own lives.

“What meaning do you want your life to have?” Mayorkas said. “Think about it. It will help you act with purpose.”

It’s a message that resonated with the graduates.

“It was very inspirational he talked about his call to serve and I think I feel the same call,” said Mia Cost, a graduate from Deep River.

The cadets arrived at the Academy on July 1, 2019, right before the pandemic. Now, four years and 200 weeks later, they are the U.S. Coast Guard’s newest Ensigns.

“My whole family’s here to celebrate so it’s an amazing day,” Cost said.

The video below is of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s final regimental review.