Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Best of the Best - Adding to the Long Gray Line

I had the chance yesterday to share in the celebrations and festivities at West Point as close to a thousand men and women graduated, and were commissioned as the U.S. Army's newest 2nd Lieutenants. Among the cadets I have come to know personally in the Class of 2008, they have amassed an impressive array of awards and honors. Here is a small sampling of their achievements. One of them is a Fulbright scholar, another was chosen to attend medical school, yet another was the ranking scholar in the Economics Department. Two of the cadets were part of the Model Arab League Team that won back-to-back national championships. One of them was among the top 20 USA Today's 2008 All-American Scholar team.

All of these distinctions I mentioned above are known to the public. What impresses me even more - and is indicative of the character that undergirds these remarkable young leaders - are some of the things they have chosen to do below the radar of public scrutiny. Not many people are aware that a group of about 15 cadets decided to signal the beginning of their final day as members of the Corps of Cadets by gathering at midnight near Trophy Point to spend time in prayer. They prayed for one another, for their classmates and families and for those who are in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday afternoon, only a handful of us were able to observe a very private moment when one of the newly-minted 2LT's gave a gift and a letter to a young man from New York City whom he has mentored. This young man - who may have had precious few positive male role models in his life - was clearly deeply moved, and looked with a combination of admiration and awe at this young soldier who had chosen to invest many of his precious free hours in acting as a Big Brother to the teenager.

Each of the men and women who took the oath of office as 2nd Lieutenants swore to defend the nation against all enemies - "foreign or domestic." The knowledge that their sons and daughters would soon be heading into a theater of war made the day a bittersweet one for the proud parents who filled Michie Stadiuim with cheers - and tears. The commencement speaker, Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Pete Geren, thanked the families of the graduates for being willing to give the Nation the gift of "that which is most precious to you." With the infusion into our armed forces of the high caliber leaders like the 972 who graduated yesterday from West Point - and their comrades in arms who graduated from the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy - it is hard for me to envision any enemy - foreign or domestic - who would be able to defeat us. Our future is being entrusted to some very capable and caring hands.

Please join me in praying for guidance and protection for our Army's newest officers.


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