|Davidson ROTC Commissioning Remarks -- U.S. Army Secretary Pete Geren
June 02, 2009
Contact: Stacey Schmeidel
Davidson ROTC Commissioning Remarks
Pete Geren, Secretary of the U.S. Army
May 16, 2009
Thucydides wrote long ago: "The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."
Today we honor scholars who have chosen to be warriors--chosen to be soldiers, in a time of war.
President Ross, LTC Johnson, Congressman Hayes, Jim Haynes, Ken Krieg, moms, dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and the Cadets of the Class of 2009--what a profound honor it is to share this occasion with you. And humbling, as a grateful civilian before those who have answered our nation's call.
I came to work for the Department of Defense in late summer 2001, and I was at the Pentagon when the terrorists struck and killed 184 innocent people, including 69 soldiers and army civilians.
That day I watched soldiers go to the sound of the explosion. And for the past 7-1/2 years, I have watched soldiers go off to war--and watched their families stand with them.
I have been inspired by the service of our soldiers and humbled by the sacrifice of their families.
From the bottom of my heart--cadets and your families, thank you for your service. Thank you for your willingness to sacrifice.
I stand before you as a grateful citizen representing a grateful nation.
To the parents--thank you for molding your sons and daughter into people of courage, character and accomplishment.
Parents, as you watch your child today you must be filled with an extraordinary sense of pride.
But I know, too, the concern that you also carry in your heart, behind your pride.
For we are a nation at war--and your sons, your daughte, have chosen to be soldiers.
Over the weekends this spring, hundreds of thousands of parents celebrate on college campuses as we do today, but celebrate with none of the ambivalence that may tug at your heart, unmindful of the debt they will owe to your children.
So much owed--by so many--to so few.
Your sons and daughter are among our nation's very best. They could be accepting a diploma today and a comfortable job--instead, they chose a commission in the United States Army--in a time of war.
Our nation is fortunate that they chose as they did, for the conflict we are in--and this era of persistent conflict before us--requires our warriors to be scholars.
Let me read to you an account from an Army Captain who has served two tours in Iraq: "Daily life for a young officer in an Iraqi neighborhood is both demanding and rewarding. Young officers must provide security, care for the economic and social well-being of their local area, and facilitate local governance. This requires daily interaction with the local populace, working alongside the Iraqi police and army, and leading battle-tested American soldiers. Every day has a new challenge that requires young officers to be warriors, leaders and thinkers because of the diverse demands of the current fight. One day you can be expected to recover a downed helicopter in an Al-Qaeda saturated area, and the next be expected to identify why the local population is not receiving adequate water. While all of these challenges are tackled, you must also care for your soldiers. This is done through helping them understand the bigger picture, ensuring they are prepared for every patrol, sweating and fighting with them, and consoling them during difficult times."
Our warrior leaders must be scholars.
President Kennedy spoke to the West Point Class of 1962. He offered his vision for their service-he could have been speaking to you today.
He told the cadets:
"This is another type of war--war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins. War by ambush instead of by combat, seeking victory by eroding us instead of engaging us. The non-military problems you will face will be most demanding: diplomatic, political and economic. You will need to understand the importance of military power and the limits of military power. Your posture and performance will provide the local population with the only evidence of what our country is like. You have one satisfaction however difficult your days may be--when you are asked what you are doing for your country, no man's answer will be clearer than your own."
You could say that President Kennedy wrote the mission statement for the Davidson soldier/scholar for the war of this new century.
When I came to the Department of Defense, I knew of Davidson College, but knew no one from Davidson College. That changed quickly.
At the Pentagon, I was surrounded by great public servants from Davidson College: Undersecretary Ken Krieg--Class of '83; DOD General Counsel Jim Haynes--Class of '80; Secretary of Health Affairs Bill Winkenwerder--Class of '76; LTG Jack Stulz, Chief of the Army Reserve--Class of '74; BG Will Grimsley, Deputy G-3, 4th ID--Class of '80.
I concluded from watching and working with them that Davidson College must be one remarkable place.
I am proud to share in this slice of the life and history of Davidson College: the namesake of a distinguished Revolutionary War General, a community of service, a "Community of Honor."
To the cadets of Davidson College, Class of 2009--you inherit a proud tradition. You have accomplished much in your young lives already. Your college has high expectations for you--as does your Army.
Cadets--congratulations to you; parents--congratulations to you; faculty and cadre--job well done.
I always will remember that I had the privilege of administering the Oath of Office to Rebecca Harrison, Jonathan Leathers, David Palko, Joshua Kohn, and Will Haynes--soon to be our Army's newest Second Lieutenants.
Cadets--the words inscribed on your Alma Mater's Chambers Bell read:
"In memory of our Soldier dead
To you from falling hands
We throw the torch
Be yours to hold it high."
Hold it high--I know you will. God bless you.
Posted By: Bill Giduz