Maj. Gen. John
S. Grinalds, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), President, The Citadel
Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds:
Welcome back from spring break.
We are now heading into the final stretch of the 2002-2003 school year and, as we gather together this morning, we can all recognize that this spring is different. The fact that our nation is at war and that many of our Citadel family are now deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom casts a somber mantle over our daily routines.
With so many of our alumni, relatives or friends now serving half way around the world or on some military base in this country, it would be easy to feel that what we are doing is somehow insignificant…that our daily tasks are very ordinary in a world that is being defined by this moment of truth in a distant land. But the fact that so many are sacrificing so much is the very reason that we must go about our daily routines with new diligence and purpose – whether that is keeping up with classes, working in the barracks, teaching or coaching, doing PT, providing services and support to others, or keeping our buildings and grounds in good order. Whatever it is that we do each day, we must do it even better out of respect for those who are fighting for us.
I want to drive this point hope particularly to our cadets, military and CGPS students. As we move toward the end of the semester and final exams, remember that a strong finish is important to your future. Do not let the current events distract you from your primary mission of doing your best academically. You owe this to yourself, your parents, the people who have high expectations of you and those who are making sacrifices on your behalf, so that you can study here.
For many of us, this war in Iraq is very personal. It is for me as I feel a mixture of pride and worry with each day's news. My youngest son, Allen, is a captain in the Marines and a Cobra helicopter pilot serving somewhere in Iraq. There are seven cadets and three CGPS students who are not with us today because they have been deployed in this effort. (Alumni and students deployed) You may know some or all of them:
Cadet Joshua Dane Call
At least four Citadel employees have gone for either short or long-term deployments and at least seven other employees have children, spouses or other close relatives serving in this effort. Indeed, what is going on in Iraq is a family affair.
As you entered McAlister, you saw the names of alumni who have been deployed and are serving in Iraq and that region of the world. The roster on our website grows each day as more names are added. Look at those names; you will recognize many of them.
For The Citadel, war is an up-close and personal event. That has been the case almost since this college was founded in 1842. As many of you know, Citadel graduates have served in every war that America has fought since some of the first graduates participated in the Mexican-American War in 1846.
So what can we do here at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina when so many in a distant land are in harms way?
First, as I said earlier, we can perform whatever it is that we do to the best of our ability, remembering that others are sacrificing much on our behalf.
Second, we can take care of each other. We are a family at The Citadel
and that family includes cadets, CGPS and active duty military students,
faculty & staff, alumni, parents and friends of the college. The war,
while unsettling for everyone, affects some people more than others. And
we need to watch out for those who are especially anxious about what is
going on over there.
To underscore my point, I would like to read from an email posted on our website by Feisal Sadoun (Fee-SAL Sah-DOON), an Iraqi citizen who currently lives in Amman, Jordan. He is a 1992 graduate of The Citadel and was a member of India Company.
He writes, "Watching the bombardment of my country creates mixed feelings and emotions. … I blame the Iraqi regime for all the casualties in this war and each casualty, whether it be American, British or Iraqi, breaks my heart."
"I remember fondly my time at The Citadel during the last Gulf War. I was treated like a brother by all other cadets who were always concerned about my safety and well being around town. They were very understanding of my mixed emotions and very supportive at times when local people in Charleston decided to speak openly against Iraq. In short, they were decent human beings."
He concludes his letter by saying, "I pray for peace and better understanding between our peoples, religions and governments. "
So, I challenge all of you to demonstrate the same kind of leadership that those who were cadets in 1992 exhibited toward Feisal Sadoun. Take care of one another and remember that we are all Citadel family.
What else can we do?
We can remember that this is a college community – a place where the exchange of ideas fosters healthy debate. Be respectful of the opinions of others. Challenge those you disagree with, certainly, but do so in a civil and intelligent way. Do not assume that everyone at The Citadel must think in lockstep. It is perfectly understandable – even healthy – for people to have differing opinions about this war as about other issues. Just be sure that, whatever your opinion is, you can back it not only with emotion and conviction, but also with intelligent reasoning and temperate behavior. Again, be respectful of diversity of thought.
In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about two keenly painful losses The Citadel has suffered in recent days.
We mourn and respectfully remember Cadet Kristopher Johnson, a member of the class of 2004 from Oscar Company. Cadet Johnson died unexpectedly on March 25 at his home in Long Valley, New Jersey. Neighbors saw him jogging through the neighborhood shortly before he was found in his front yard. The coroner’s report indicates that Cadet Johnson had an undiagnosed heart problem that caused his death. He was buried on Saturday in his Citadel full dress salt and pepper.
Friends in his company remember Kris Johnson as a dedicated cadre and platoon sergeant. Last year he was a human affairs corporal. An avid runner, he lifted weights, loved baseball and tutored in the English Department. He was an education major who dreamed of becoming a high school teacher. We miss him and extend our condolences to his friends in Oscar Company and his family. There will be a memorial service for Kristopher Johnson in Summerall Chapel on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. His parents will be here for the service.
We also mourn and remember Lt. Therrel Shane Childers, a 2001 graduate of The Citadel who was the first combat fatality in this war with Iraq. Lt. Childers came to The Citadel in 1998 as a MECEP student. A French major, he graduated in June of 2001 and, from all accounts, was an exemplary Marine.
His French professor, Colonel Guy Toubiana, tells one of the many stories about Lt. Childers that speaks to his character. He was attending The Citadel’s Summer in France program and had gone with some friends to the beach on a free afternoon. As the group was returning on the bus, two men began harassing two English women. Everyone on the bus watched except Lt. Childers who intervened and demanded that they leave the women alone. Even after one of the men pulled a knife, Lt. Childers did not back down. The very force of his presence caused them to desist, and they returned to their seats.
That courage and standing up for others who are weaker was a foretelling of Lt. Childers’ bravery that cost him his life. He was leading a platoon that was capturing the Ramalla oil fields when he was shot in the stomach and died on March 21st. He gave his country everything he had…and his courage and leadership is an inspiration to us all.
And now I would ask that we all stand and pause for a moment of silence
to gratefully remember Cadet Johnson and Lt. Childers in our own way.