soldiers, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen…
First of all, it is an honor for me to
welcome each of you back to the united States Army Signal Center
and Fort Gordon. I am especially pleased to have this
opportunity to welcome those of you who are graduates of the
Signal Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Monmouth, during
World War II and the Korean War, as well as those who graduated
from the Signal OCS program here at Fort Gordon during the
largest communication training site, Fort Gordon has gained
national prominence as a center for information technology,
instruction and development.
In addition, Fort
Gordon is a fast growing center of intelligence operations with
a deployable MI Brigade, the 116th
MI Group, NSA Georgia and 1,000 sailors assigned to the Naval
Information Operations Command.
Today there are over 25,000 people working
and living here, making us the ninth largest town in the
nation’s ninth most populous state. Our growth and growing
importance to America’s military is a direct result of the
efforts of all the Signaleers who proceeded us—who clearly
demonstrated the importance of communications in support of the
This gathering is truly an historic and
significant occasion. We honor today those who set aside their
personal dreams and ambitions to defeat the fascist threat
during World War II, defended Korea from its northern
aggressors, fought in the jungles of Vietnam, and those who
ended up at the sharp end of America’s spear as part of the
armed forces that contained and defeated the vast Soviet threat
of the Cold War.
All of you represent the true spirit of
America and her military, with an undeniable devotion to
freedom, and unmatched sense of patriotism, and an unbreakable
will to preserve our American ideals.
You served during times of tremendous
turmoil for our Army and for our nation. You OCS graduates left
a lasting legacy of unmatched dedication and selfless service.
Twenty five years ago I found myself facing
a black metal arch at a place “far across the Chatohocee, to the
uptoe at what was to become my alma mater, Benning School for
It must have been a particularly cold day
because I do remember a slight shaking in the knee before
entering the general rigors of Officer Candidate School.
Forty one years have passed since the first
OCS Companies were called up to meet the growing demand for
Officers to lead a rapidly expanding Army for World War II; and
forty one years of a constantly evolving OCS program that at one
time consisted of eight distinct branches operating at Forts and
Camps across the country.
Since being reactivated in 1951 in response
to the invasion of South Korea, OCS has continuously expanded
and contracted to meet the needs of the Army. In 1973 the new
Branch Immaterial OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia, stood up to
replace the Branch Specific Programs, and it remains there
today, supplying fully trained Officers to the Army’s sixteen
Etched in my mind of that first day was the
TAC Officer, saying “Holwick, fourth platoon—you’re Signal. And
Signal I have remained.
Passing through that solitary metal arch on
that cold day was not just a step into a new school, but a step
toward becoming part of the magnificent legacy of Army OCS. A
program that commissioned thousands of Second Lieutenants, 41
Medal of Honor winners, and such great leaders as:
Senator Bob Dole
Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger
Secretary of the Army John O. March
Lieutenant General Robert Gray
Lieutenant General Emmett Paige Jr.
Mort Walker… who brought us Beetle Bailey
An OCS legacy which
also includes Second Lieutenant Chan Bergen—a 1942 candidate who
after being trained as one of the Army’s pioneering mountain ski
troops in Colorado ended up leading troops in the steamy jungles
of Guadalcanal and through the Pacific Theater. The same Chan
Bergen who ten years later would become a lifelong friend of my
father, a direct commissioned Officer, and the same Chan Bergen
who wrote my first letter of recommendation for OCS on his
magazine stationary from the
Western Horseman. There are
thousands of Chan Bergens out there, who answered the nation’s
call, and I’m facing an audience of them today.
I’m certain that many of you have
conflicting emotions in thinking back to those days, now one,
two or three generations past. Recollections that might also
evoke many painful memories, as well as remembrances of profound
sacrifice, enlightened leadership and great courage.
Your experiences and your leadership led to
vital changes that resurrected our Army into “America’s Army,”
the best Army in our nation’s history and the best in the world.
Today’s soldiers and all of our fellow
citizens owe a debt of gratitude for your invaluable role in
making those necessary changes, for enduring those troubling
times, and for your patriotic, unwavering service through the
years that followed.
You and your classmates led us through the
darkest of times and threats, continued to be our greatest
advocates and supporters after leaving our ranks, and act as
shining role models for our soldiers today, who are fighting
another necessary conflict against the plague of terrorism.
Today’s memorial service gives all of us an
opportunity to remember those classmates, friends and great
soldiers who are no longer with us and unable to experience this
sense of appreciation. Their achievements, sacrifices and
unwavering patriotism should, and will, never be forgotten. That
is why this is such an important and necessary gathering… and
why I am so honored to be included.
As President Calvin Coolidge once observed,
“The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself
forgotten.” As time passes, we must continue to ensure that all
of our defenders are never forgotten. They deserve no less…
Again, thank you for allowing me to be a
part of this memorable occasion…
… you are truly special and you have made
this a very special time for us all. Thank you for gracing Fort
Gordon with your presence. I’m proud to share your legacy as an
OCS graduate, a 90 day wonder, or a shake and bake Lieutenant,
and most importantly… an OCS alumni. Like each of you I’m most
proud of graduating from the last really tough OCS class and
those who I shared those rigors with.
Again, thank you for giving me the honor to
speak at today’s ceremony. Along with our fallen brothers and
sisters please keep our service members in your prayers as they
defend our nation around the world in this global War on
Terrorism. May God bless you and your families, our fallen
comrades and God Bless America.
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