Superintendent’s Remarks at Commissioning
GENERAL J. H. BINFORD PEAY, III
Superintendent’s Remarks at Commissioning
15 May 2012
On behalf of the VMI Board of Visitors, General Bissell and Mary Baldwin College, and the entire VMI community, it gives me great pleasure to welcome those who will soon receive commissions, their proud families and friends, members of the VMI faculty and staff, and other members of the Corps of Cadets. Today’s ceremony marks the culmination of four years of serious study and work on the part of each graduate and the beginning of a life of service to the nation in a tradition that extends to the founding of our great Republic. Of the important moments that will remain in your memory throughout life, this will be one.
This commissioning ceremony marks the transition of 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. It is the fulfillment of one of the central and historic purposes of the Virginia Military Institute: the preparation of Citizen-Soldiers.
We are most fortunate to have with us today, as commissioning officers, four outstanding officers whose service to the nation stands as an inspiration to all of us, and especially to the young men and women who will follow in their paths from this day forward. It is my honor to welcome: Major General Perry L. Wiggins, a graduate of Mercer University who is the Deputy Commanding General, United Sates Army North – 5th Army; General Alexander (as depicted in your program), had unscheduled meetings with the national command authorities this morning and was a last minute cancellation. General Wiggins, whose son is commissioning this morning, graciously agreed to conduct the Army ceremony today; General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., a graduate of St. Michael’s College who is Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who is Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command; and, General Philip M. Breedlove, a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology who now serves as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.
There perhaps is no college in the country today that has the honor of collectively having these four senior officers at one time in their presence to deliver the commissioning oath to soon to be officers in all four services.
As we welcome these distinguished officers from the separate branches of our Armed Forces, it is important to emphasize the accomplishments and personal characteristics that bind them together. All four are highly educated. All four are seasoned officers who have served at the highest echelons of our national command structure as well as having extensive experience in leading soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines at the cutting edge of our business. And all four are “caring leaders” with splendid leadership skills. We are honored by their presence today…and let’s give them our applause in appreciation for their service.
Before continuing, I invite our professors of military science and their staffs to stand and receive our expression of thanks for the inspiring work they have accomplished in teaching and mentoring the young men and women who will be commissioned this morning.
And, now, I ask that all of the veterans in the audience stand … cadets, staff, faculty, parents and other guests here today… to receive our heartfelt thanks for your service.
Members of the Class of 2012… In a few moments, you will hear from your commissioning officer and take the solemn oath of commissioning. As you perform your new duties in your respective services, I know that their words will often come back to you and serve as guides. I also encourage you to frame and keep your commission on display… and read it with regularity. It too, will guide you through the challenging profession you have chosen.
Fifty years ago, I sat in J. M. Hall with my classmates and, just like you, was sworn-in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. I was leaving an institution (VMI) that had given me memorable experiences and the opportunity to work closely with others. When I entered the Army, I found that I was joining another great Team – a Team of soldiers and families. You, too, will have this same experience and you will find that it will sustain you as you move forward in your military careers.
Officership is a serious responsibility…and soldiering is a special profession. It is demanding. It can be dangerous … in peace and war… but it is also “immensely” rewarding, and it is also an adventure. The world is changing rapidly, and nowhere more than in the lives of service men and women who are called upon to defend the nation and protect its policies and interests. This condition demands flexibility, adaptability, and the very best of leadership from its officers…, skills that I feel certain you have developed over the course of four years of study and development at the Institute. Tomorrow, you will become VMI graduates. I can say without hesitation that you can be confident that you are prepared for the challenges and adventures that await you.
I congratulate you on the attainment of a commission. The Institute could not be more proud. Your families are proud of you. And you can take just pride…, yourself, in your accomplishments. Our country is fortunate with your decision to serve…and to lead. Good luck to each of you in the years ahead.