With the end of a journey on the horizon, Cadets of 5th Regiment, Advanced Camp take to Brooks Field for graduation and the conclusion of Cadet Summer Training 2018. Eagerness and anticipation fill the cool morning air as crowds of family, friends, and special guests fill the stands. Their sons and daughters stand crisply at attention. In the moment everything freezes, all that comes to mind is, "Dear Cadets…"

Dear Cadets,

When you first came to us a month ago, you were greeted by the sounds of rustling gear and shouting Drill Sergeants. Day Zero was an awakening, proving your prior thoughts that this summer would be like no other you had experienced before. You made it through the day and began to bond with your peers, buckling down and preparing for the long road ahead.

Your first taste of freedom came almost a week into camp as you ventured out into different areas of the Disney Complex. You experienced moments of struggle and faced your fears as you tackled grueling obstacle courses and the daunting 64-foot rappel tower. Through the trials and challenges you began to grow, not only as Officers and young Soldiers, but also as leaders and people. The personal growth made to this point was only the tip of the iceberg, but would do no less than bring a sense of pride to the hearts of your family and friends if they could see you in the moment.

With your confidence high you soon began the trek into the woods to blend as a team and sharpen those keen leadership skills. Facing an onslaught of insects, natural dangerous such as poison ivy, the unpredictable summer weather, and the watchful eyes of Cadre, you maneuvered your way through the Kentucky wilderness and took your Field Exercise Training head-on. They weren't all positive days. The true tests came inwardly on the days when morale was low, you were hungry, tired, and craving nothing more than a nice hot shower. Still, you managed to push through, aiding one another along the way, taking those pivotal steps towards your maturation in becoming an Army Officer.

During your final week, with the end in sight, the negative thoughts and self-doubt creep in a little more, but you counter them with visions of success and hugging loved ones. Before those dreams can become a reality, your last day held one of the most physically and mentally taxing events of camp, the 12-mile ruck march. You woke up before the sun even had a chance to dream, equipment secured and rifle in hand. As the time started, you began to run. In your head, you ran towards something big, you ran towards thoughts of loved ones and future successes. As the dawn turned to morning, your mind too shifted and you tried as hard as you could to run from the pain. Then, when you made it around that final turn and the finish line was in sight, it not only signified the end of the damning ruck, but also the end of your month-long odyssey.

Today is your day of celebration. Today is your day of rejoice and recognition. You have weathered the storm and fought the good fight. You have created memories and bonds that will carry on throughout your life. You have made your family and loved ones proud. From the people of this great nation, to which you have gracefully and courageously accepted to protect, we thank you.

"The mind of man is capable of anything--because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future"

-- Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness