Joyous Moments at December Commissioning and Graduation
LEXINGTON, Va., Dec. 21, 2023—The shortest day of the year was a great day of celebration, joy, and pride at Virginia Military Institute, as families and friends gathered in Memorial Hall surrounded by holiday greenery, to witness 35 cadets cross the stage to receive their diplomas during the commencement ceremony Dec. 21.
Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, gave the keynote remarks, standing in for the scheduled speaker, John D. Adams ’96, who apologetically cancelled due to illness. Adams graduated from VMI with a degree in economics and business and is now a member of the VMI Board of Visitors.
Wins congratulated the graduating cadets and commended them on their persistence and hard work, and that he understood that they were ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, but cautioned them not to forget what they had accomplished during their time at VMI. “Leaving VMI is often bittersweet. There are a few routines you won’t miss: room inspections, studying late into the night, and forming up on cold mornings. On the other hand, I am confident you will have pleasant memories of Ring Figure, barracks life, and your brother rats. The bonds you have formed will last a lifetime and are priceless,” he said.
Wins asked them to consider the lessons they learned at VMI: lessons of honor, teamwork, discipline, and friendship. “I am confident these lessons will serve you well for the rest of your life and provide a strong foundation to build upon,” he stated.
He challenged them to ponder the fundamentals they learned from VMI. “Apply those principles to whatever situation you find yourself in life. Think critically, build trust, and reinforce the principles of honor and integrity. You own your integrity; it can never be taken away from you. Your integrity is irreplaceable. This foundation you built never goes out of style, especially in the face of danger. When others compromise during times of crisis, use that muscle memory you developed at VMI to overcome adversity.
“The world needs young leaders ready for a challenge who have the persistence and intensity to face problems head on. Use what you have learned. America needs strong leaders who are not afraid to make sound decisions and overcome obstacles.”
He told the cadets that his speech would be the last time he addressed them as cadets. “From this point forward, you are graduates—fellow alumni—of the Virginia Military Institute. We are all very proud of your accomplishment.”
He reminded the cadets to thank their parents, family members, close friends, and anyone else who helped them along the way. “Every cadetship has its highs and lows, but it would have been much harder, maybe even impossible, without support from friends and family members.”
Wins concluded by asking the cadets to stay in touch and to return as often as they can. “You are forever welcome here on post. I wish you the very best in the years to come and look forward to staying apprised of your many accomplishments and contributions to our society. You have the tools to go out into the world and accomplish great things. I have every faith you will do so. Congratulations graduates. Rah Virginia Mil!”
The presentation of candidates for degrees was delivered by Brig. Gen. Robert W. Moreschi, dean of the faculty and deputy superintendent for academics, followed by a standing ovation and the traditional tossing of the gloves.
Four cadets, Robert Austin Doyle II ’24, Naomi Hahn ’24, Collin Blythe Ironside ’24, and Aidan Noonan ’24 maintained a four-year cumulative GPA at 3.5 or higher, designating them as distinguished graduates. Five cadets, John David Boles ’24, Evan Michael Eller ’24, Owen Donald Munz ’24, Ian Salyers ’24, and Carter Elliot Steward ’23 graduated with distinction by maintaining a four-year cumulative GPA between 3.0 and 3.499.
The evening before commencement, the Joint Commissioning Ceremony was held, also in Memorial Hall, in which nine graduating cadets were commissioned into the U.S. Army as second lieutenants, and two May 2023 graduates, Connor Alan Smith ’23, who was a distinguished graduate, and Robert Bruce Gomez Jr. ’23, who graduated with distinction, commissioned into the U.S. Coast Guard as ensigns.
Offering remarks and administering the oath of office was Maj. Gen. (Promotable) Christopher C. LaNeve, who currently serves as the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
LaNeve told those commissioning that, after learning the history of VMI for four years, they are now part of that history. He said when he was in their shoes, he was worried about what it would take to succeed, and he spoke on several principles he has discovered along the way. He advised them to be motivated leaders who bring focus and energy to their cause, and to do what is right all the time, even when no one is watching. He instructed them to stick to the high standards that people expect, and to take care of what the military gives them, including equipment and people. Finally, he encouraged them to develop tomorrow’s leaders, creating a climate for growth and caring for those around them.
LaNeve graduated and was commissioned from the University of Arizona. He has served in a variety of command and staff billets including, Fort Ord, California; Western Illinois University ROTC program; the 101st Airborne Division; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Afghanistan; and Grafenwoehr, Germany. His positions include executive officer to the assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, and deputy director of executive communications and control division-operations in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army. In 2006, he was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C., where he served in the Defense Warning Office.
In addition to an undergraduate degree, LaNeve holds a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a Master of Military Art and Science in Strategic Studies from the Command and General Staff College Advanced Operational Art Studies Fellowship. His military education includes the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms Services Staff School, the Command and General Staff College, the Joint Forces Staff College, and Senior Service College Fellows Course. His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab, Pathfinder Badge, Master Parachutist Badge and Army Staff Identification Badge. He has also earned the Mexican Parachutist Badge and the Royal Australian Parachutist Badge.
Photos by Kelly Nye
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