War on Terror Requires Next Generation to Lead
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2004 The war on terrorism will require the next generation to be leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at Virginia Military Institute commencement May 15.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the "Keydets" that there has never been a more important time to serve America than today. "We're 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 innocent men, women and children.
"Our democracy and prosperity depend on the confidence we have in our leaders, in the rule of law and the stability of our economy," he continued. "Terrorists want to destroy that confidence and with it, our way of life."
The chairman stressed that the newly minted lieutenants and ensigns are going to have to lead. He said the new officers are going to have to make a conscious decision. "If you don't make the choice to lead, you have no say in where you end up as an individual, as a professional, as a community or as a nation," he said.
The chairman said it is not a given that freedom and democracy will survive in this highly charged world. "That's a pretty scary thought, but Americans have always stepped up to meet every challenge to our way of life," he said. "And as I see our young men and women in uniform and all of you gathered here today, I'm very optimistic."
The chairman talked to the new service members about the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. He had just returned a day earlier from a visit to Iraq and a tour of the prison. He said it is "heartbreaking" that American service members would treat anyone without dignity. He said it is disappointing to those in the service "because we expect the highest standards of one another, and the nation expects it, and so does the world."
He said he is sure the truth will come out and the accused will receive fair courts martial. Those found guilty will receive justice.
Myers received a standing ovation from the cadets when he was introduced. VMI is a state-funded four-year, military college, located in Lexington, Va., in the heart of the Shenandoah River Valley.
While many graduates go into the armed forces, others go directly into civilian professions. This year, some 41 percent of the 236 graduates were commissioned. Nine students came from foreign countries. The institution's most famous graduate is World War II General of the Army George C. Marshall, who went on to serve as secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman and engineered the Marshall Plan program of military and economic aid to foreign nations after the war.
Marshall was also secretary of defense for one year during the Korean War. He also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.