Remarks at Commissioning Ceremony
General Wilson, General Freakley, Admiral McKnight, General McDew --- The Board of Visitors and VMI extend a special thanks to you --- for coming to VMI today to serve "as commissioning officers" for this important ceremony marking the "transition" of these young men and women from the life of a cadet and a student to that of an officer in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. I also want to extend my warmest welcome to the families and friends of those who are about to receive commissions and the symbols of their new rank. And, I welcome members of the Corps of Cadets.
I would now like our Professors of Military Science and all of their staffs to stand and receive our thanks for the work they have done in teaching, mentoring, and the development of these future officers.
At any moment in this nation's history, earning and accepting a commission is a sign of great civic responsibility. In a time of war, however, this commitment carries added significance because it is not some distant call but immediate and very real. Like VMI wartime classes before you, you have accepted this call willingly and with a strong sense of responsibility, with seriousness of purpose, and with noble courage. You are following in the footsteps of countless VMI graduates before you who have answered that call, and you can be justly proud of that fact.
The term "commission" is related to the word "committed" in the sense of being "entrusted" with a responsibility, a duty, or to act in a prescribed manner. When you accept a commission in the armed forces, you accept responsibility for defending the nation and conducting yourself always with honor and integrity, but as officers you also accept responsibility for the development, welfare, and safety of the men and women whom you will lead. Their parents and spouses have entrusted in you, as an officer, the care of their sons and daughters. What a high honor. Officership is a serious responsibility, but it is a responsibility for which VMI has been preparing you for over the past four years. An officer must be at his or her best at all times - always on duty - and always on parade. The lives of your soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are directly impacted by such professionalism.
Forty-five (45) years ago I sat where you are and was sworn in as a second lieutenant of field artillery in the United States Army. What I would give if I could start all over in your shoes tomorrow or even just to be in your platoon and under your leadership. The years have passed quickly, but I vividly recall the teamwork, the tough missions, the rapidly changing responsibilities, travel and new assignments in different "world-wide" locales, the professional military schools one attends, and the wonderful leaders, soldiers, and families associated with all of our services. Soldiering is a special business. It is fun and it is immensely rewarding. You can be confident that VMI and your ROTC Detachments have prepared you well.
On behalf of all of your instructors and those who have placed their confidence in you as you begin this important work in service to our nation, I congratulate you on the attainment of your commission this morning.