Veterans Day Ceremony 2006
Address by C/Colonel Joe Roy La Sierra Class of 1966:
I have been introduced as Cadet Colonel. It has been a long time since I have used that title. It has been 40 years since I graduated from La Sierra. I had the privilege of being an officer in a program at La Sierra call the California Cadet Corp. It was the equivalent of a Junior ROTC, a Reserve Officers Training Corps.
I seldom reminisce about high school because as a whole, I did not enjoy it, with the exception of the cadet corps.
The two teachers that I remember most are the cadet instructors, the Commandant of Cadets, Lieutenants Krumhaus and Espinal. Both are the finest of teachers, and the finest of officers, that I have ever known. I have memories of many students, a few friends, and three of the names on this memorial.
Mostly though I remember the cadets and the cadet corps. I remember what it was like to be one of the Cadet outcasts. I remember the negative response from some of the student body, when I would wear my cadet uniform to school on our monthly uniform day. I learned much about commitment and self respect from running that gauntlet.
I experienced what it was like to live with ridicule for choosing a different path than the majority. As a cadet I experienced times of intense controversy, and because of that, I developed the ability to stand up for my beliefs even against the majority. For my self and for so many other Cadets, this was a defining experience. A defining experience is one that significantly creates who and what you are.
In my eyes, this memorial to La Sierra’s hero’s in uniform is a defining experience for it’s Alumni. This monument defines a student body with honor.
At La Sierra I learned much that I hope to never to forget. I learned a set of ideals about what America is, values to live by, principles to serve the common welfare by, and of character required of a leader. The purpose of the cadet corps was to build leaders, not soldiers.
The military experience is one of transformation. It takes an individual and molds a team member. By training and conditioning it creates a “drive on” and “never give up” determination that is called discipline. It challenges individuals to embrace the values of self-sacrifice for the greater good. All service personnel must learn how to deal with hardships and adversity, and how to stay organized and focused on a goal. These are significant character assets in any environment.
On April 10th 1968 I had a defining moment. I took the oath to seal my induction into the United States Army. That oath was to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to obey the lawful orders of my superior officers.” Compliance with that oath is the first and primary duty of America’s Armed Forces Personnel. That is their fundamental purpose.
I was privileged to attend basic training and advanced infantry training at For Lewis Washington. There were many La Sierra graduates at Fort Lewis at that time, and a couple in my unit.
The entire Company was order to Vietnam at the end of the training cycle, except for 10 misguided volunteers who chose to go Airborne. At the end of jump school the Army cut orders sending me, to of all places, Germany. Not what I expected.
The US Army in Europe was not as far from the front as many might imagine. Large numbers of regular army volunteers were rotated out of Vietnam to Germany to serve their final 18 months. Vietnam was the dominant topic of discussion. I listened to my new friends and I learned. There is no glory to war. Sherman was right. War is hell. To be a survivor is still to be wounded, and for some, irreparably so.
Vietnam was a controversial war. Honest people had, and still have, extreme differences of opinions, both for and against its moral justification. But the right and wrong of war is not a soldier’s job to decide. That was true during the time of Vietnam, and it is as true today. A soldier’s job is to do his duty. His duty is to go and do as he or she may be ordered. To face any test, to endure any condition, to serve or command as he is required.
A soldier’s duty is to comply with his oath to protect and defend America’s democracy, America’s freedoms
It is our duty as citizens, and it is the moral obligation of America’s civilian leadership, to insure that our service men are not asked to fight for any cause but a just one. The honor of our country depends on how well we, as citizen, do our duty.
Veteran’s day is a day to recognize the sacrifice of all veterans. But for those of us that have the names of our friends or family welded on the memorial plaque, we come because they will forever live in our hearts. They deserve more recognition than any words can ever declare, more than there is time to give. They earned it by doing their duty to the utmost, and by being America’s sacrifice to the cause of freedom. They have defined the meaning of honor. By remaining loyal to the oath they took, by embracing their call to duty, they are HONOR.
In conclusion, We do not choose our duties, but they chose us. What we chose between is duty with honor, or not.
May God bless us all with the discernment to know our duty, and the courage to do it.