‘All In, All of the Time’
Sungkuyn “Eddie” Chang takes the oath to commission in the U.S. Army. – VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.
‘Total Commitment’ Asked of More than 130 Commissioning Cadets
LEXINGTON, Va., May 15, 2013 – Joined by jubilant friends and family, more than 135 men and women commissioned in four branches of the U.S. armed services in ceremonies held at VMI this morning. In their remarks, the commissioning officers from all four branches of the service stressed the gravity of an officer’s responsibility toward country and others, and the weight of an oath sworn “to defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendent, told those commissioning, “This ceremony marks a transition for young men and women from the life of a cadet to that of an officer in the armed forces of the United States of America. It is a fulfillment of one of the central and historic purposes of the Virginia Military Institute: the formation of citizen-soldiers.”
Commissioning first were more than 80 new Army officers. By the end of the summer, almost 100 men and women will have met the requirements for an Army commission from VMI.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, U.S. Army commissioning officer, reminded the soon-to-be second lieutenants of the solemn duty before them. Allyn quoted Gen. Robert E. Lee, saying, “Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, and you should never wish to do less.”
Elaborating on this, Allyn urged the new officers to develop a moral compass strong enough to guide them in all situations. “Know that you will be tested early and often,” he said. “You must demonstrate the moral courage to always choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”
Sungkuyn “Eddie” Chang ’13, one of those newly commissioned in the U.S. Army, is following in the military tradition of his father and grandfather – but he’s sworn allegiance to a different country. Chang, a native of South Korea, obtained his U.S. citizenship while at VMI.
“I wanted the opportunity to do something exciting for myself and prove my worth in American society,” said Chang, who was ranked as the No. 3 ROTC cadet in the nation.
Chang will complete the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Ft. Benning, Ga., after leaving VMI. Then, he’ll head to Army Ranger School, in preparation for what he hopes to be a long military career.
“I’m very happy to be able to commission in the U.S. Army,” said Chang. That’s an opportunity that less than 1 percent of Americans get.”
Almost 30 individuals commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps, taking the oath administered by Maj. Gen. Paul W. Brier ’81. In his remarks, Brier told those commissioning that the military is “a profession that deals with matters of life and death of individuals and nations.” He added, “Our efforts are our values in action. … It is our values, not our weapons, that are the basis of our success, both on and off the battlefield.”
Newly commissioned Marine 2nd Lt. Sean Noll stepped outside of Jackson Memorial Hall and rendered his first salute to his father, Greg Noll. The two men shook hands, exchanged a long glance, and then embraced twice. The younger Noll presented his father with an Eisenhower silver dollar minted in 1972 – the year that the elder Noll was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force.
“The entire reason I came to VMI has just come to a close,” said Noll, who attended VMI on a Marine Corps scholarship. “The whole purpose of my coming to VMI was to get my commission.” Noll, along with the other newly commissioned Marine Corps officers, will attend The Basic School at Quantico, Va., for six months, after a temporary assignment as assistant commandant of cadets at VMI.
The U.S. Navy gained 14 new ensigns at VMI on Wednesday, with two more due to commission by the end of the summer. Commissioning officer for the Navy, Rear Adm. Sandy Daniels, reminded those commissioning that the U.S. military’s move to an all volunteer force, made under President Richard Nixon over 40 years ago, has been a resounding success – but the military can only maintain its strength through the efforts of individuals. “You are the most powerful weapon there is,” she said. “You need to serve in a way that honors the cloth of our nation.”
Among those commissioning in the Navy was Ensign Joshua D. Lawrence, who followed his grandfather, Dean Rogers, into the Navy.
“My grandfather was a naval aviator, so in ninth grade of high school, I joined the junior ROTC program there,” said Lawrence. “I’m kind of following in his footsteps.” Rogers, who retired from the Navy as a commander, was not only on hand to see his grandson commission – he also served as his commissioning officer.
Lawrence will now report to Pensacola, Fla., for approximately two years of flight training there. A biology major, he noted that he was the only non-engineer in this year’s group to be selected for pilot.
Administering the oath to 12 individuals commissioning in the U.S. Air Force was Maj. Gen. Eugene Haase. In his remarks, Haase revealed that he had joined the Air Force ROTC unit at the University of Minnesota out of an admittedly selfish desire to fly. Accepting a commission, however, brought an end to his focus on self.
“The commitment you make must be total – all in, all of the time,” he said. “The high ground is the place you must ride, and it will not be easy.”
Second Lt. Alex Sharp, one of those commissioning in the Air Force, said he’d always been fascinated with flight. “I wanted to do something with engineering, and the Air Force has the coolest R and D, and I’ve always loved airplanes,” explained Sharp.
After graduation, Sharp will report to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he’ll work as a research and development engineer. Ultimately, Sharp would like to be a flight test engineer, in charge of designing tests to be carried out by test pilots.
A mechanical engineering major at VMI, Sharp has already had a chance to explore his passion for flight. In the summer of 2012, he had an internship at the Air Force Institute of Technology, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There, he studied flapping wing vehicles.
The Institute’s recognition of graduating cadets electing to serve in the military is held on New Market Day, in commemoration of the cadets who fought at the battle of New Market on May 15, 1864.
– Mary Price