Tonight, in a historic first, Michelle Obama will address the Cadets and families of the United States Military Academy (USMA) Class of 2011 at their Graduation Banquet. I will have the honor and pleasure of accompanying her on the trip up the Hudson Valley, to what West Point graduates refer to as our “Rockbound Highland Home.”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time of widely varying lengths on the West Point campus. Four years as a student from 1991 to 1995, four days getting married on a brief break from flight school in 1996, and three and a half years as a history professor from 2005 to 2009. I’ve gotten to know the campus pretty well in that time, but this trip is a chance to see it through the fresh eyes of Mrs. Obama and her staff.
At the banquet, The First Lady will speak to the core of what it means to serve the nation as an officer in the armed forces. She will invoke those hallowed words shining brightly on the USMA Crest – Duty, Honor, Country – that have served as a signpost for the generations of West Point graduates that have come before, the Long Gray Line. And she’ll talk about the challenges that lie ahead as these men and women move forward to defend a nation at war.
But she’ll focus on something that we in uniform don’t talk about enough, and that’s family. For those serving in harm’s way, family – however you define it – is what supports and sustains them. It’s what they’re fighting for and what they’re coming home to. Because supporting military families is an issue close to Mrs. Obama’s heart, she and Dr. Jill Biden have spearheaded Joining Forces, a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. The First Lady will bring the message of Joining Forces to West Point, to let these newly commissioned officers and their families know that America stands behind them.
I’m proud to be part of the team supporting this initiative, and I hope you’ll take the time to check it out and learn all the different ways that you can support this noble endeavor.
Ray Kimball is an Executive Assistant on the National Security Staff and a 1995 graduate of West Point.