Myers Girds Naval Academy Grads for Role in Terror War
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 28, 2004 Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers challenged the 990 new graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 2004 today to prepare for the key role they will play "at this crucial moment in our nation's history" as the United States confronts the terrorist threat.
"In my opinion, our nation has never faced a more significant threat than the war on terrorism," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, speaking at the 154th Naval Academy commencement ceremony here. "The stakes couldn't be higher. The stakes are the freedoms our predecessors fought so hard to defend for over two centuries."
Graduating midshipmen file into their seats at the Navy- Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance" for the Class of 2004's graduation May 28. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Myers told the midshipmen 779 being commissioned as Navy ensigns and 190 as Marine Corps second lieutenants that the nation will ask much of them as it wages its "long-term struggle between extremism on one hand and freedom on the other."
"We are fighting a war against extremists who use terrorism as their weapon to create fear," Myers said. "They attack the most visible targets they can, killing men, women and children." Also, he said, they work to erode "confidence in our leaders, in the rule of law and the stability of our economy," foundations of America's democracy and prosperity.
"Terrorists simply want to destroy that confidence, and with it, our way of life," he said.
Myers told the graduating midshipmen -- who entered the academy before terrorists struck U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001 -- that the U.S. armed forces will depend on their leadership, teamwork and integrity as it faces off against the enemy in this "test of wills."
"I can say with certainty that you will have a role in fighting this war on terrorism," the chairman said. "You will face many enormous challenges. You will go into harm's way. The sacrifice that you have learned by now is part of the job description.
"But I also know that you are ready for the challenge," Myers said. "You have the privilege of being part of and leading the nation's next greatest generation and the opportunity to make a huge difference, not only for this country, but for the world."
Myers challenged the new officers to take care of the people under their command. "It is a sacred responsibility, and I'm sure you understand that," he said. "That means more than just taking care of their basic needs. It also means making sure every single one of them understands what this conflict with extremism and terrorism is all about, and why the nation and the world requires so much of each one of them."
John Fletcher, who served four years in the Marine Corps before attending the Naval Academy, said he's ready for the challenges that await him as Marine Corps officer. Following a six-month officer basic course and flight school in Pensacola, Fla., Fletcher said he recognizes that he could soon find himself on the front lines of the terror war. "I'm looking forward to getting back to the Marine Corps, learning to fly and being a part in it," he said.
Crystal Speckmann, one of 32 women in the Class of 2004 to be commissioned in the Marine Corps, said she, too, is ready to take on an active role in the war on terror although she admitted her family is a bit worried about what could lie ahead for her. "You feel helpless if you're not doing anything when you know you need to do your part," she said.
Navy Lt. Anna Boyd, a 1996 Naval Academy graduate herself who now serves as an adviser, role model and mentor to the academy's 25th Company, said the very real prospect of going to war has helped bring the training midshipmen receive at the Naval Academy into sharp focus.
"These people know that everything they are learning has a purpose, and that they may be applying what they've learned very soon," she said. "They all know that, and they're excited about it and ready to make a difference."