The U.S. Military Academy will officially celebrate the 218th anniversary of its founding March 16, but the academy kicked off the monthslong celebration Feb. 27 with the annual Founders Day Corps Dinner.Over the next two months, more than 120 West Point societies throughout the world will host Founders Day events honoring the contributions academy graduates have made and will continue to make to the Army and the United States as a whole.Since its founding in 1802, the U.S. Military Academy has educated and trained the future leaders of the Army and prepared them to fight and win in the crucible of ground combat. More than 200 years after the first class of cadets graduated, West Point remains the pre-eminent leader development institution in the world.The Founders Day events bring together alumni, current and future cadets, and the community where the event is being held. Each event features remarks by the oldest and youngest graduate in attendance as well as a keynote address from a member of the academy leadership or a prominent West Point graduate.The dinner for the Corps of Cadets served as the first event in the monthslong Founders Day celebration. The goal of the evening was to prepare cadets to follow in the footsteps of the members of the Long Gray Line who have or are currently serving in hostile environments throughout the world.The uniform for the dinner has changed over the years and this year the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform was specifically chosen by Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard and First Captain Daine Van de Wall to drive home the message of the evening."This year, we're going to celebrate our heritage a little differently given that our Army remains at war and there are graduates right now wearing this same uniform and serving in harm's way," Buzzard said. "The first captain and I thought it was important for us to honor that service and reflect on our mission and our future responsibility to lead our nation's national treasure-its sons and daughters. There's no more important responsibility, and that responsibility often requires us to lead through adversity."The importance of leading Soldiers and being ready to carry the weight of that responsibility was not only presented by a change in attire, though. The evening also featured a speech from retired Capt. Jason Pak, who graduated from the academy in 2011.Pak was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 where he lost both his legs and two fingers on his left hand after stepping on a roadside bomb during a foot patrol. Pak spoke to the assembled corps and academy leadership about his time at West Point where he played on the men's soccer team and how it prepared him for the missions he would be asked to lead in the Army.Although they can never know what the experience will be like once they are asked to lead Soldiers, the cadets will be ready because of the training they receive at West Point, he said."When you're here at West Point you don't know what's next," Pak said. "You don't know what to expect. You can bring as many people to come talk to you and tell you about what it's going to be like to be in front of Soldiers, to lead, to be in combat and to really trust a person to your left and to your right with your life. You don't know until you're there. What I can tell you is everything you're doing is preparing you for that moment."After medically retiring from the Army due to his injuries, Pak focused on helping veterans and others who have faced challenges because of their time serving the country. He currently works with Boeing where he leads veterans outreach initiatives through the Boeing Global Engagement organization. He said it was because of the relationships he forged at West Point and while serving in the Army that he was determined to continue serving even after he was no longer able to as a Soldier."I'd like to relay my thanks to every single one of you for what you're doing and what you will continue to do," Pak said. "You may not know it yet, but you will soon realize just like me how much the people around you and the experiences you will have will shape you into being the next generation of leaders, not just for our Army, but for our country."Throughout March and April, Founders Days events will take place from coast-to-coast in America and overseas.