I had the privilege of traveling to Georgia this past weekend to witness the final parachute jump and graduation ceremony of Class 40-09, Basic Airborne Course at Ft Benning. 442 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines received their jump wings at the end of a long day in which all of them made their final jumps at Fryar Drop Zone in front of bleachers full of families, friends and fellow Soldiers.
Among the newest paratroopers was my son Michael. Mike is a junior at Towson University in Baltimore, MD, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is a ROTC cadet and a member of the Towson/Loyola Ranger Challenge team.
After the entire company completed their jumps, the Airborne School cadre conducted the graduation ceremony. The company commander spoke of the significance of the day, which of course was on all our minds as we reflected upon the horrible events that had sparked the Global War on Terror. The guest speaker was the CSM of the Ranger School, whose own son was graduating that day. He also shared his thoughts on how proud he was of all of these newest members of the Paratrooper ranks.
It's one of my proudest moments, a moment I'll always remember, pinning silver jump wings on Mike's uniform. His mom and I are amazed at his dedication to duty and his outstanding achievements. We are grateful that he carries on our family's five-generation tradition of military service, together with his older brother (an officer in the Navy currently serving aboard one of the nation's newest warships).
Many of you who read these pages have been through the crucible of Airborne School, and I salute you for your achievement and professionalism in some of the Army's most challenging training. I'm proud that Mike has joined your ranks.
Many of us who have served long careers in the service have been reassured to see the many thousands of young men and women who have chosen to serve in America's Army in recent years, especially in the years following 9/11. I couldn't think of a better way to have spent the anniversary of this event, than to witness a hard-charging group of proud young people who join the generations of Airborne soldiers past and present, and who resolve to do their part as the "mighty Airborne Force" of the future.