This was sent to me by Robert Skimin, friend, retired soldier, best selling author.

US Army Infantry Graduation Speech

LTC Randolph C. White Jr. delivered the graduation speech for the newest batch of Infantrymen to complete training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, on April 21st, 2006. Note that the speech below is a copy of the paper LTC White used to make the speech.

A CO 2-58 and C CO 2-19 INFANTRY

 

 

GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

 

THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING THE GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR ALPHA COMPANY, 2 ND BATTALION 58 TH INFANTRY REGIMENT; AND CHARLIE COMPANY, 2 ND BATTALION 19 TH INFANTRY

 

ON BEHALF OF MG WALTER WATCH-A-COW-SKI, COMMANDER OF FT BENNING, COL SCOTT HENRY, THE COMMANDER OF THE INFANTRY TRAINING BRIGADE, AND LTC RICK MITCHELL, COMMANDER OF 2-19 INFANTRY; I'D LIKE TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WELCOME YOU TODAY'S GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR THE ARMY'S NEWEST INFANTRYMEN. BEFORE I BEGIN, I'D LIKE TO ASK ALL OF THE MILITARY VETERANS ONCE AGAIN TO PLEASE STAND AND BE RECOGNIZED.......LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, LET'S SHOW OUR GRATITUDE (APPLAUSE).

 

THE INITIAL 14 WEEK TRAINING OF A UNITED STATES INFANTRYMAN IS COMPLETE. FOR SOME IT'S OFF TO THEIR NEXT UNIT, AND FOR OTHERS IT'S ON TO EVEN MORE SPECIALIZED TRAINING SUCH AS AIRBORNE SCHOOL OR RANGER SCHOOL . IN EITHER CASE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THAT UNIQUE BAND OF BROTHERHOOD THAT IS THE INFANTRY. TODAY, YOUR YOUNG MEN JOIN THAT SAME FRATERNITY AS THOSE THAT STORMED THE BEACHES AT NORMANDY, HUNTED THE ENEMY IN THE A SHAU VALLEY-REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM, PARACHUTED INTO PANAMA, BEAT INCREDIBLE ODDS IN THE STREETS OF MOGADISHU SOMALIA, AND CURRENTLY SUBDUE OUR ENEMIES IN BOTH IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, WHILE ALSO REBUILDING THOSE TWO COUNTRIES. I KNOW IT'S HARD FOR MANY OF YOU TO IMAGINE, BUT THIS IS THE SPECIAL GROUP YOUR YOUNG MEN NOW STAND BESIDE. WHEN POLICY MAKERS FINISH TALKING, WHEN DEBATE HAS CEASED, WHEN NEGOTIATIONS HAVE FAILED AND ORDERS ARE GIVEN ... IT BECOMES THE MISSION OF THE YOUNG MEN BEFORE YOU TO EXECUTE NATIONAL POLICY FOR THE LAST 300-500 METERS TO A GIVEN OBJECTIVE.

 

THEY ARE THE SUBSTANCE BEHIND ANY POLICY UNDERTAKEN BY THIS COUNTRY DEEMED IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO SEND SOLDIERS INTO HARMS WAY ...ABSOLUTE PROOF POSITIVE THAT THE UNITED STATES MEANS BUSINESS WHEN THEIR BOOTS HIT THE GROUND.

 

THESE MEN ARE SPECIAL FOR MANY REASONS BUT THE FACT THAT THEY STOOD UP AND SAID SEND ME AT TIME OF WAR SPEAKS VOLUMES AS TO THEIR CHARACTER. BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE MILITARY IS ALWAYS A BIG DECISION, BUT TO DO SO AT TIME OF WAR SPEAKS WELL OF A YOUNG MAN WHO COULD HAVE EASILY OPTED FOR A SAFER EXISTENCE. THEIR REASONS FOR COMING ARE VARIED AND OFTEN DEEPLY PERSONAL, BUT IT'S WHAT MAKES THEM TRULY THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST THAT WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY. I DON'T SAY THAT TO BE NICE...I SAY THAT BECAUSE I MEAN IT.

 

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST ARE NOT NECESSARILY ON CAMPUS OR IN THE CORPORATE BOARDROOM RIGHT NOW. THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST ARE YOU MEN! YOU OUT THERE ON THE PARADE FIELD. DON'T EVER THINK THAT THE KIDS RUNNING AROUND ON SOME COLLEGE CAMPUSES PROTESTING AND WHINING HAVE ANYTHING ON YOU. YOU ARE PRIVILEGED TO HAVE THE ONE ADVANTAGE THAT ALL COVET... YOU WILL KNOW MANY OF LIFES TRUTHS & YOU'LL KNOW ABOUT THE GOINGS ON IN IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, DJIBOUTI, THE PHILIPPINES, THE BALKANS AND MANY OTHER PLACES. YOU WON'T HAVE TO GUESS OR BASE AN OPINION ON SOME BESPECTACLED SO CALLED EXPERT, OR HOLLYWOOD "PROFESSIONAL PRETENDER" WHO DEFINES DANGER AS CROSSING THE STREET, LEAVING CAMPUS, OR HAVING A DECAF LATTE INSTEAD OF A REGULAR. YOUR HEAD WILL NOT BE FILLED WITH THE EMPTY THEORY OF THE OLD PATHETIC SLACKERS WHO TEACH ON MANY CAMPUSES... THE ONES WHO RAN TO CANADA, OR HID OUT IN EUROPE, WHILE MANY OF THE VETS WITH US HERE TODAY PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE IN A PLACE CALLED VIETNAM. THE SNIDE ARROGANT CROWD WHO SPEND THE DAY BLAMING AMERICA FOR EVERY WRONG IN THE WORLD BEFORE GOING HOME TO SLEEP AT NIGHT UNDER THE BLANKET OF FREEDOM PROVIDED BY BETTER MEN! ...BETTER MEN SUCH AS YOU STANDING ON THE GRADUATION FIELD.

 

YOU'LL SEE THE SMILES OF IRAQI'S HAVING THE CHANCE TO VOTE, OR TO MAKE A SIMPLE CHOICE, OF AFGHANI CHILDREN RECEIVING 21 ST CENTURY MEDICAL CARE OR GOING TO SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES. YOU'LL SEE MORE IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS THAN MANY WILL IN A LIFETIME, AND BECAUSE OF THIS YOU WILL KNOW SOME OF LIFE'S HARD TRUTHS AND SOME OF ITS PUREST DEVOTIONS. YOU'LL NEVER HAVE TO GUESS.

 

I KNOW THAT THESE COMPLIMENTARY WORDS MAY COME AS A SURPRISE TO SOME OF YOU BECAUSE WE HAVE TRIED TO BE HARD ON YOU...HARD BECAUSE WHAT LIES AHEAD WILL BE TREMENDOUSLY CHALLENGING AND FOR MANY THE DEFINING CHAPTER OF YOUR LIVES. LIFE AS AN INFANTRYMEN IS NOT EASY, AND THE COLLECTIVE GOAL OF THOSE OF US CHARGED WITH YOUR TRAINING HAS BEEN TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT. YOUR DRILL SERGEANTS...LIKE MANY OF THE MEN SITTING BEHIND ME ON THIS STAGE AND SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE CROWD, KNOW WHAT AWAITS THE INFANTRYMAN ON THE BATTLEFIELD... AND OUR SACRED DUTY IS TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE NOT SURPRISED. THE VAST MAJORITY OF YOUR DRILL SERGEANTS AND YOUR COMPANY COMMANDERS HAVE BEEN TO THE BATTLEFIELD, AND THAT CANNOT BE OVERSTATED. THEY HAVE PUT INTO ACTION MUCH OF WHAT THEY HAVE TAUGHT YOU. THEY HAVE MOVED UNDER FIRE, THEY HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY UP CLOSE, AND THEY KNOW THAT THIS ENDEAVOR IS DEADLY SERIOUS. YOUR DRILL SERGEANTS AND COMMANDERS HAVE HUMPED THE STEEP MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN WITH A 120 POUND RUCKSACK ON THEIR BACK—GRASPING FOR BREATH IN THE THIN MOUNTAIN AIR IN PURSUIT OF THE ENEMY—QUADRICEP MUSCLES SCREAMING—BACK ACHING, SLEEP AND REST NOT FORTHCOMING...YOUR DRILL SERGEANT HAS CHASED THE ENEMY THROUGH THE STREETS OF BAGHDAD OR AR RAMADI REACTED TO IEDS, AND FOUGHT THE ENEMY FROM 10 FEET AWAY.

 

(BIG TIME EMPHASIS) *** THIS - IS WHY DUTY DEMANDED THAT THE - TRAINING - PRESENT A CHALLENGE. IT'S WHY YOU DID ALL OF THOSE PUSH UPS AND WILL DO THOUSANDS MORE!...IT'S WHY YOU RAN ALL OF THE MILES AND WILL RUN MANY MORE!...IT'S WHY YOU FIRED HUNDREDS OF ROUNDS —IT'S WHY YOU MARCHED AND MARCHED WITH NO END IN SIGHT!—IT'S WHY YOU CAN TAKE THAT RIFLE APART, AND REASSEMBLE IT IN THE DARK—IT'S WHY YOUR PARENTS CAN SEE THE CHANGE—SIMPLY- BY- THE- WAY- YOU- STAND ...AND MOST IMPORTANTLY... IT'S WHY YOU HAVE BEGAN TO APPRECIATE THE BROTHERHOOD AND PURE CAMARADERIE THAT IS GLEANED THROUGH NIGHTS SAT IN THE FREEZING RAIN NEXT TO YOUR BATTLE BUDDY, FINDING HUMOR IN YOUR PREDICAMENT, SHARING A COLD MRE AND REALIZING THAT YOU'RE FORMING BONDS AT MOMENTS SUCH AS THESE THAT WILL LAST YOUR LIFETIME.

 

THE MOST COMPLICATED BATTLEFIELD IN THE HISTORY OF WARFARE AWAITS YOU. AN ASYMMETRIC '3 BLOCK WAR' IF YOU WILL. YOU'LL ENGAGE IN VICIOUS CLOSE COMBAT ON ONE BLOCK... PROTECT CHILDREN AS THEY ATTEND SCHOOL ON THE NEXT BLOCK... AND RESTORE WATER AND POWER ON THE THIRD...ALL OF THIS SIMULTANEOUSLY. YOU WILL, ON A DAILY BASIS MAKE LIFE OR DEATH DECISIONS WITH ONLY THE TIME IT TAKES TO BLINK ONE'S EYE TO PROCESS , DECIDE , AND TAKE ACTION .

 

YOU WILL OFTEN FIND YOURSELVES AS PART MAYOR, DISTRICT CHIEF, POLICE CHIEF, AND ARBITRATOR OF DISAGREEMENTS AMONGST ETHNICITIES AND TRIBES AS VARIED AS OUR 50 STATES. YOU WILL PERSONIFY DAILY, THE EUPHEMISM OF THE 'STRATEGIC CORPORAL'. A DECISION THAT YOU MAKE UNDER DURESS; WITH LITTLE TIME FOR REFLECTION OR THOUGHT, MAY QUITE LITERALLY IMPACT THE ACTIONS OF POLICY CUSTODIANS IN OUR NATION'S CAPITOL. - - - - - THAT'S NOT HYPE FELLAS, IT'S A FACT. you're the latest band of brothers miles away from the flagpole and making things happen in the very best way that you can, SOMETIMES MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO. THE TECHNO WANNABEES IN THE CORPORATE WORLD CAN'T BEGIN TO IMAGINE THE VAST RESPONSIBILITY THAT YOU HAVE ACCEPTED. YOU WILL BE scrutinized like no warriors before YOU. Expected to eradicate our enemies, pacify the critics, and abide by the rules of land warfare as we ARE committed to doing. YOU'LL hold more responsibility and do more in the NEXT few years than most people will do in an entire lifetime. High expectations to be sure...but YOU will succeed...BECAUSE YOU ARE THE 21ST CENTURY SPARTAN....SOMETIMES ALONE, BUT NEVER AFRAID...YOU'LL QUELL ANY STORM AND ALWAYS RIDE THE THUNDER, YOU'LL BE GREAT DAILY, AND ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT WHEN FACED WITH ADVERSITY...THE STEELY EYED, KNUCKLE-DRAGGIN, FLAT BELLIED, OAKLEY WEARING, DOOR BUSTING, AND WHEN APPROPRIATE --- COMPASSIONATE AND KIND UNITED STATES INFANTRYMAN.

 

LET ME SAY 5 FINAL THINGS TO THE GRADUATING INFANTRYMEN STANDING BEFORE US:

 

#1: DRAW YOUR ENERGY IN THE DAYS AHEAD FROM YOUR FAMILY . THOSE THAT ARE HERE TODAY AND WHO HAVE TRAVELED A LONG WAY TO SEE YOU...AND WHO IN SOME CASES DID SO UNDER GREAT FINANCIAL OR PHYSICAL DURESS. WRITE AND CALL THEM FREQUENTLY...YOUR FAMILY WILL OFTEN BE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH IN THE DAYS AHEAD AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT.

 

#2: AS I HAVE SAID TO EACH NEW SOLDIER I HAVE WELCOMED TO THE ARMY ...'THIS IS THE LIFE THAT YOU CHOSE' . IT'S NOT RISK FREE, NOR IS IT ALWAYS EASY, BUT IN THE HUMBLE OPINION OF THIS PROUD GRUNT IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LIFE WORTH LIVING. THERE IS NO MORE NOBLE PROFESSION THAN THE ONE OF WHICH YOU ARE NOW A MEMBER . IT'S A PORTION OF YOUR LIFE SPENT IN THE COLD, HOT, SNOW, OR RAIN.... FACING DANGER DURING WAR AND PEACE WHILE MAKING THE BEST FRIENDS YOU WILL EVER HAVE...GUYS THAT WILL HAVE YOUR BACK NO MATTER WHAT LIFE BRINGS.

 

#3: DON'T LET THE PESSIMISTIC TELEVISION TALKING HEADS, HIGH BROWED NEWSPAPER WRITERS, HOLLYWOOD IDIOTS, OR ANY OTHER FACTION OF THE 'BLAME AMERICA FIRST' CROWD GET YOU DOWN! I'M SPEAKING OF THE LATTE BISCOTTI CROWD. THEY ARE SIMPLE BACKGROUND CHATTER MEN....AND WILL ALWAYS EXISTS ON THE PERIPHERY OF ANY ENDEAVOR THAT REQUIRES SELFLESS SERVICE OR LOYALTY. THEY ARE NOT WORTHY OF YOUR CONCERN AND TRUTH BE TOLD—IN THE PIT OF THEIR COWARDLY HEARTS—THEY WISH THEY COULD BE LIKE YOU.

 

#4 I FOR ONE WILL NEVER...EVER... APOLOGIZE FOR BEING AN AMERICAN AND DON'T YOU EVER FEEL THAT YOU HAVE TO. WE'RE NOT PERFECT BUT I CAN THINK OF NO PLACE BETTER. WE DIDN'T BECOME THE GREAT COUNTRY THAT WE ARE BY ACCIDENT....WE EARNED IT! ---- AND WHILE WE WERE AT IT--- WE KEPT AND CONTINUE TO KEEP A LARGE PORTION OF THE WORLD FREE. AMERICAN BLOOD AND SACRIFICE IS THE INDISPUTABLE PART OF THE WORLD EQUATION. MORE PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD ARE TRYING TO COME TO OUR SHORES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY. WE REMAIN THE BEACON OF HOPE FOR MANY, AND GOD WILLING IT WILL ALWAYS BE SO. WE'RE NUMBER 1...DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR IT—BE DAMN PROUD OF IT!

 

#5: FINALLY, STAND TALL... SUCK IT UP WHEN THINGS GET HARD AND REMEMBER THAT THEY CAN - AND USUALLY WILL GET HARDER... STAY AGGRESSIVE... KEEP YOUR WEAPONS CLEAN AND YOUR BAYONET SHARP..... PARENTS NEVER STOP WORRYING, SO WRITE AND CALL THEM OFTEN....NEVER PANIC BECAUSE ---ONCE YOU DO YOU HAVE LOST..... ALWAYS WATERPROOF YOUR GEAR...WATCH OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER... REMEMBER THAT WHEN THINGS LOOK THE WORST - YOU WILL NEED EACH OTHER THE MOST... REMAIN STEADY...HYDRATE....DO PT EVERYDAY...KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL AND YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN... REMEMBER THAT IT'S ALWAYS BETTER TO BE THE ONE TO DELIVER THE BLOW...BE PROUD TO BE CALLED A GRUNT....AND REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE THIS COUNTRY'S 21ST CENTURY SPARTAN... AMERICA IS RELYING ON YOU AS YOU ASSUME YOUR POST ON THE NATIONAL WALL OF DEFENSE.

 

MAY GOD BLESS AND PROTECT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU...THANK YOU VERY MUCH

 


 

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