Reflections on 2003
What an extraordinary year 2003 has been for The Citadel as well as our nation.
During this interlude after Christmas and before the beginning of a new year, I cannot resist looking back at some of the significant events that will make 2003 stand out in my memory. At the top of my list would be Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom - actions that have affected so many activities with alumni as well as cadets, CGPS students, faculty and staff.
We have watched those on campus depart to do their duty in a strange and uncertain war, serving at home and abroad. We scanned the news from the front for Citadel names and faces, experiencing exhilaration from such stories as the Wall Street Journal's portrayal of Captain Zan Hornbuckle '96 as an unsung war hero whose daring and leadership helped hold a vital intersection leading to Baghdad, Brigadier General Hugh Tant '71 as the military leader charged with helping Iraq develop a system of currency, or the report of Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Megill '84 who carried Saddam Hussein's stash of money from the hole where he was hiding to a press briefing so the world could see what the dictator had hoarded.
These are but a few of many examples of Citadel alumni who have made a difference in the war and in the peace. Clearly, our alumni are demonstrating the highest and best leadership qualities that The Citadel upholds.
This war has also brought us the bitterness of loss. The Citadel family mourned the deaths of Marine 1st Lieutenant Shane Childers '01, Marine Captain Benjamin Sammis '96, Navy Lieutenant Peter Ober '98 and Army Lieutenant Colonel Chad Buehring '85.
In reflecting on 2003, I am drawn to the memory of September 11th, the catastrosphic day that set in motion the major events of this year. That was a day of unity on campus: we opened the chapel for prayer, we gained strength from each other and we pressed ahead with our daily tasks, knowing that it is the ability to carry on with day-to-day responsibilities in the face of turbulent events that shapes leaders.
The Citadel's mission to develop leaders capable of making ethical choices that will stand the test of time and circumstance is the same ideal that has guided this institution for more than a century. Excellence in the education of principled leaders remains our vision statement and our pledge. 2003 has produced many heroes to inspire us. As we enter 2004, we will not forget their leadership and examples. And we will move forward with a renewed sense of purpose.