I had the privileged to visit the United States Military Academy at West Point this past week. Graduation week-end. The occasion was the baccalaureate service at the Jewish Chapel My brother-in-law, Major General (Ret) Eugene Fox had the honor of offering the charge to the Jewish graduating Jewish cadets. (He is married to my sister, Evelyn.)
The campus was filled with families of the seniors. Parents, aunts and uncles, cousins -- all proud of their graduating relative. These amazing young men and women are being prepared to lead our military and to engage if necessary in war. “Duty, honor, country” is the motto and it felt tangible to me during that day, and especially during the baccalaureate ceremony, that each one of those men and women knew what they were getting into.
My brother-in-law as we were chatting earlier in the day mused about the challenge of giving this speech and he wonder what he – someone who graduated more than 60 years earlier – had in common with these youngsters. It was not easy – 60 plus years ago is a long time ago. It occurred to him that those young men and women, like him, faced an uncertain future. And what they all enter that uncertain time with, as he did 60 years ago, is integrity – honor. Duty and country are relatively fixed. Duty is their period of service and country is the good old USA. Honor, however, goes with them into every job and they are going to be challenged from time to time. They, like him, begin with that deep knowing. It will be challenged in ways they cannot imagine now, just as he was challenged in ways he could not imagine.
It was a moving talk. Hopefully one that will echo in the ears and hearts of the soon to be second lieutenants and their loved ones who were in the sanctuary of the Jewish Chapel that night. A most appropriate place to hear this message – a scared space in a sacred place. In The Actual Dance I imagine the scene in the final moments of a life of being embraced by the souls of everyone we have ever known and loved in this life, all the generations that came before us and even, perhaps, those yet to come. I wondered as I sat in the sanctuary that night last week looking at those confident young men and women and sitting among their families if there were not also in that room with us and those cadets all of those other souls from 1802 until today also embracing the hearts and joining the love and prayer for a safe journey as the new soldiers committed to Duty, Honor and Country. I felt them. I hope everyone else did.