By Kathy Eastwood (USMA at West Point Public Affairs)May 20, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 20, 2016) - The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic sponsored the 11th annual Inspiration to Serve Cemetery Tour, April 28.
This tour helps prepare the Class of 2018 (yearlings), who are halfway through their education before the class formally commits to the Profession of Arms in an Affirmation Ceremony Aug. 14.
"Many cadets are shocked when they hear loved ones talk about their spouse or classmate," Col. Scott Halstead, director of the SCPME, said. "Part of that is because they are in a cemetery. The tour is the single most impactful program we have because it connects the yearlings to the selfless service of the Long Gray Line."
The tour also allows the yearlings to hear stories of remarkable Soldiers who preceded them as they consider their future role as officers.
Their opportunity to reflect on the Profession of Arms is intensified when they write their thoughts on paper, which is then submitted to their tactical officer.
"It's about character, competence and commitment," David Jones, chair for character development at SCPME, said as he spoke to the yearlings.
"As you hear the stories, reflect on your own preparation, your own experience at West Point and your future journey leading Soldiers in the best Army in the World," Jones said. "There is no bigger honor and no bigger responsibility. Because in the end, it really is about being fully prepared to assume the duties and responsibilities of being an officer in the Army. I am confident you will be ready."
The Class of 1968, the 50-year affiliate class to the Class of 2018, presented eight of their fallen classmates, most killed in action in Vietnam and most within a year of each other.
"So many cadets are sons and daughters of classmates," Class of 1968 graduate and one of the presenters Dutch Hostler said. "I think this is a terrific idea. It is intended as an opportunity for cadets midway in their cadet career to see if this is right for them. It reaches across the generations to connect them with the Long Gray Line. It's also an opportunity for them to see examples of selfless service worth emulating."
Class of 1968 USMA graduate Mike Brennan presented at the gravesite of classmate Capt. Richard Hawley Jr, killed in action May 6, 1970 in Vietnam.
"This is the first time I presented at the cemetery tour," Brennan said. "We have some kind of memorial service for fallen classmates every two years. Two years ago, we held a reunion at the Wall of Remembrance in Washington D.C. This is like a mini reunion and 26 of my classmates are active either as presenters, mentors or escorts."
As the cadets completed the tour, the Class of 1968 spoke about sharing the legacies of those Soldiers who have passed before them, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in fulfillment of their duty.
And one day, someone will honor them in the same way and share their legacy, as they are writing that legacy now.
(Editor's note: Hawley Jr. was posthumously promoted to captain.)