By Brandon OConnorMay 22, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The West Point Association of Graduates honored the 2019 recipients of the Distinguished Graduates Award Tuesday.
The award has been given annually since 1992 and honors graduates for their accomplishments and service to the greater good while upholding the values of the U.S. Military Academy. The 2019 recipients were Gen. David A. Bramlett, USMA Class of 1964; retired Col. Victor F. Garcia, USMA Class of 1968; retired Lt. Gen. Robert L. VanAntwerp, USMA Class of 1972; retired Gen. Walter L. Sharp, USMA Class of 1974; and retired Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., USMA Class of 1975.
Bramlett commissioned in the infantry upon graduation and served on active duty for nearly 35 years. He served two tours in Vietnam and then returned to West Point as a professor in the Department of English and as the Commandant of Cadets.
Bramlett retired in 1998 after serving as the commander of Army Forces Command.
"The shaping influence in my life was West Point," Bramlett said. "I was a cadet and came back as the commandant. It shaped so much of who I am. Your classmates have to recommend you and to realize my classmates did this makes it all the more special. When you come here, we all come from different walks of life. I came here, we all got the same experience and it is a crucible to learn about yourself and prepare yourself for the future. That is what it did for me."
Garcia started his career with the 8th Signal Battalion in Germany before attending medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After his residency, Garcia served at Walter Reed Military Medical Center where he became the chief of general surgery in 1987. After his retirement from the Army, Garcia founded the trauma center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital where he worked until 2009.
"It saved my life," Garcia said of coming to West Point. "I was a poor kid from Harlem in the inner-city and a lot of people in my demographic didn't make it out and I did. It impacted my career in being able to apply myself in a way that I could save lives, but also to continue the task. If there is an injustice anywhere that I needed to address, that really is what I've been doing for the past 20 years. Addressing the health disparities and inequities that impact all Americans, but particularly people of color."
VanAntwerp served as the First Captain his final year at West Point prior to a 39-year career in the Army. During his career, he served as the commander of the 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, lead the Corps of Engineers' efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and served as the commander of Army Accession Command.
"So much of it depends on your attitude," VanAntwerp said of his advice to the Class of 2019. "Life takes different turns, but (serving in the Army) is an incredibly rewarding thing. The other thing is, you are going to be working with your classmates. What other school do you go to where you are most likely going to be in business with your classmates? It is a great thing."
Sharp retired from the Army in 2011. During his career he served as the Director of the Joint Staff, commander of the United Nations Command and commander of the Korea-U.S. Joint Forces Command. He also served in Operations Desert Shield/Storm in Iraq and led the peacekeeping operations in Haiti and Bosnia.
Caslen's career brought him back to West Point multiple times as he became one of only four people to serve as both the commandant of cadets and superintendent of West Point. Caslen commissioned as an infantry officer upon graduation from West Point. He served in Operations Desert Shield/Storm in Iraq and as the commander of the 25th Infantry Division. He retired in 2018.
The five awardees were presented with a medal and served as members of the official reviewing party during the alumni parade.