The West Point Association of Graduates honored the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award on Sept. 11 during alumni exercises that included an alumni wreath laying ceremony at the Sylvanus Thayer Statue. This year, a total of 11 recipients received the award on the Plain at West Point.   Photo by Delancey Pryor III/PV
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The West Point Association of Graduates honored the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award on Sept. 11 during alumni exercises that included an alumni wreath laying ceremony at the Sylvanus Thayer Statue. This year, a total of 11 recipients received the award on the Plain at West Point. Photo by Delancey Pryor III/PV (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Retired Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the last officer from the U.S. Military Academy Class of 1976 to retire, receives his Distinguished Graduate Award medal during the DGA ceremony Sept. 11 on the Plain. Rodriguez accomplished much in his 40-year career. He commissioned as an Infantry officer and led on every level in the U.S. Army to include his last position as commander of Army Forces Command and Africa Command, the latter for which he coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola pandemic.        Photo by Delancey Pryor III/PV
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Retired Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the last officer from the U.S. Military Academy Class of 1976 to retire, receives his Distinguished Graduate Award medal during the DGA ceremony Sept. 11 on the Plain. Rodriguez accomplished much in his 40-year career. He commissioned as an Infantry officer and led on every level in the U.S. Army to include his last position as commander of Army Forces Command and Africa Command, the latter for which he coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola pandemic. Photo by Delancey Pryor III/PV (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Delancey Pryor III

PV Assistant Editor

The West Point Association of Graduates honored the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award on Sept. 11 during alumni exercises that included an alumni wreath laying ceremony at the Sylvanus Thayer Statue.

Since 1992, the award honors graduates whose distinguished service, accomplishments and character uphold the values of the U.S. Military Academy. This year, a total of 11 recipients received the award on the Plain at West Point.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony was postponed and blended with this year’s ceremony.

The 2020 recipients were Richard A Nowak, USMA Class of 1966; William H Roedy Jr., USMA Class of 1970; retired Lt. Col. Andrew F. Krepinevich, USMA Class of 1972; retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth W. Hunzeker, USMA Class of 1975; and retired Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, USMA Class of 1978.

Hunzeker, after graduating from West Point, held various field artillery command and staff positions. In 2009, he relinquished command of V Corps and became deputy commander of Multi-National Force Iraq, executing the mission of planning a withdraw of over 160,000 military personnel. After his retirement from the Army in 2010, he continued to work in the defense sector and is currently serving West Point as the Distinguished Chair of the Center of the Study of Civil-Military Operations.

“It’s truly a humbling experience. It really is,” Hunzeker said with a long thoughtful pause. “It’s an honor ... I’m just honored to represent the academy and be a distinguished graduate.”

The 2021 recipients were Hon. Michael W. Wynne, USMA Class of 1964; Randal M. Pais, USMA Class of 1967; Thomas C. Shull, USMA Class of 1973; retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, USMA Class of 1976; retired Gen. David M. Rodriguez, USMA Class of 1976; and retired Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond (H.R.) McMaster Jr., USMA Class of 1984.

Rodriguez, the last officer from the USMA Class of 1976 to retire, accomplished much in his 40-year career. He commissioned as an Infantry officer and led on every level in the U.S. Army to include his last position as commander of Army Forces Command and Africa Command, the latter for which he coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola pandemic. Rodriguez served six tours in combat, which was “more combat leadership at a flag officer level than Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton combined,” noted Gen. Mark A. Milley, the 39th Army Chief of Staff. Today, Rodriguez assists with the Strategic Education Program for the Army War College and the Capstone and Pinnacle courses for the National Defense University.

“It’s amazing. It’s truly an incredible honor and I never could have imagined to be sitting out here like this 45 years later — Never. It’s really something,” Rodriguez said when reflecting on the memory of his first days at West Point as a cadet.

The 11 awardees served as members of the official reviewing party during the alumni parade as well as were presented their Distinguished Graduate medal.

The alumni review was attended by more than 100 members of the Long Gray Line representing the classes of 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.

To learn more and read the biographies of all the DGA recipients, visit www.westpointaog.org/dga-recipient-announcement-2021 and www.westpointaog.org/dgarecipientannouncement2020.