Remarks at Commissioning Ceremony
15 May 2008
General Van Antwerp, General Darnell, General Weber, Admiral Smith: On behalf of Mr. Minor and the VMI Board of Visitors; General Bissell and Mary Baldwin College, and the entire VMI community, I welcome and thank you for joining us at the Institute today to serve the as commissioning officers for this important ceremony marking the transition of these young men and women from the life of a cadet and student to that of an officer in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. (We particularly thank you for your dedicated service to our nation.) I also want to extend my warmest welcome to the proud families and friends of those who are about to receive commissions and the symbols of their new rank. And, I welcome the Faculty and Staff and members of the VMI Corps of Cadets.
I would like to begin these ceremonies by inviting our professors of military science and their staffs to stand and receive our expression of thanks for the work they have done in teaching and mentoring the young men and women who will be commissioned this morning. (APPLAUSE)
At any moment in this nation’s history, earning and accepting a commission in the military is a sign of great civic responsibility. In time of war, however, accepting this commitment carries added significance because it is not some distant call we hear, but a call that is 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 generations of VMI graduates 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 entrust in you, as an officer, the care of their sons and daughters. What a high honor! Officership is a serious responsibility, and it is a responsibility for which VMI has been preparing you over the past four years. We have stressed that a cadet must be at his or her best at all times. An officer, too, 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 affected by your professionalism.
Forty-six (46) years ago, I sat in JM Hall with my classmates and, like you, was sworn-in as a second lieutenant of field artillery in the United States Army. The years for me have passed quickly, but I still vividly recall those company grade years: the exacting missions, tough training, rapidly changing responsibilities, travel and new assignments around the world, attendance at the best professional military schools, serving under and remarkable leaders, and being part of a great team of soldiers and families. You, too, will have these experiences. You, too, will have these good memories. Soldiering is a special profession. It is demanding. It can be dangerous in peace and war, but it is also immensely rewarding and enjoyable. You can be confident that VMI and your ROTC instructors have prepared you well.
I congratulate you on the attainment of your commission this morning. We could not be more proud. Good luck to each of you!