Monday, August 25, 2008

A fortunate son...


West Point is a place steeped in tradition. My dad sometimes complains that they go too far by inventing new traditions each year that diminish the more long standing ones, or spend excessive amounts of time and energy managing the endless list of them. Recently sophomore Superintendent Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck directed that the lyrics to the academy's hauntingly beautiful alma mater changed to be both gender inclusive after hearing it played at a recent female graduate’s funeral. It might have taken forty seven committee’s and thumbs up/down all the way up the chain, but it was clearly the right thing to do.

Change has always been a challenge at West Point and to West Pointers themselves. Its alumni are a powerful and vocal influence with any and all aspects of what goes on there and when something new is proposed, The Long Gray Line will always have an opinion. For me, The Long Gray Line concept and tradition is by far the most impressive aspect about West Point. It trumps all civilian college fraternal institutions and tradition by light years. At its foundation, it recognizes for those at the front of the line, there is a fellow member directly behind in formation that will have thier back for the rest of their life whether in combat, or at any other time, and that formation trails back over 200 years. As current or future members of The Long Gray Line, acknowledgement of your predecessors is what Gen. Douglas MacArthur meant when he thundered his challenge "…what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be” to my dad’s class during his famous Duty, Honor, Country speech back in 1962. I can tell from being around these men and women for most of my life that this tradition they hold dear.

When the academy created the tradition of having 50th anniversary classes sponsor incoming classes my dad more than likely winced. Then, a couple of months ago his class leadership asked that he be their representative and stand in review at the class of 2012 recognition ceremony and parade this past weekend (he’s the gray haired guy with his "shoulders back, chin up!" to the right of the uniformed soldier with the Airborne patch on his shoulder).

When I look at this picture it affirms for me that my father is simply the embodiment of General MacArthur’s expectation and I cannot possibly describe in words how proud I am to walk in his shadow.

30 Comments:

At 12:40 PM, August 25, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And as your mother I am so proud that you recognize how fortunate you are. I am very ferklempt. Way to go, Pat

 
At 7:49 PM, August 25, 2008, Blogger mike said...

wow, cool story. My aunt is a colonel in the Army and so I have a special respect for our men and women who serve. Plus I enjoy watching Air Force football late Saturday nights, when the WAC is my last chance to break even for the day...

 
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Homesick again (not coincidentally a great Nazareth tune...)

 
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