On 11 September 2001, as I was at Fort Drum, New York, trying to get my light infantry platoon ready to deploy to war, a young girl in southern California vowed to her mother that she would one day "serve her country" in the military. I got to know both mother and daughter after leaving the U.S. Army, and I am as proud as I could possibly be to congratulate that "young girl", Janell Peske, on her graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy today. Janell graduates with a degree in Arabic, something unthinkable 10 years ago, and even took a year to study in Jordan, which just goes to show you how far the service academies have come since 2001.
I remember when I was commissioned, 10 years ago this week at the Union Club of Philadelphia, and as I talk to Janell and other young lieutenants, I cannot help but think this newest crop of officers is immeasurably better prepared for what they are getting into than I ever was. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, we should give thanks not only for those who have fallen on the field of honor but for all the simply amazing young men and women who continue to volunteer to serve in and officer our armed forces. They continue to be the very best of us, and just as it was an honor to have walked alongside them for a few years in an otherwise misspent youth, I am deeply humbled by their sense of duty and sacrifice as well as the seriousness with which they take the most important job you could ever give to a 21-year old.
Semper Fidelis, 2nd. Lt. Peske. And thank you -- and all the other newly commissioned officers out there -- for your service.