By Kevin Shannahan
This past Thursday, I had the privilege of covering Northwestern State University’s Army ROTC Commissioning ceremony. NSU joined colleges from across the country as men and women of every race and background “…do solemnly swear that I will defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” A Commissioning ceremony is a celebration of America at its best.
This accomplished group of young men and women have excelled in the classroom and in their military studies. All four lieutenants were selected for the Active-duty Army and two are Distinguished Military Graduates. Two of the new officers are graduating with honors. Second Lieutenant Taylor P. Dixon made history as NSU’s first female Infantry officer.
The ceremony and oath are short and simple, a rite of passage as old as America that will continue as long as our Nation endures; each generation taking its place in the hard, dangerous-and necessary-work of the defense of our country. The oath is to the Constitution, suited to those who would lead an Army protecting a society of free men and women. From Saratoga, through Gettysburg, Belleau Wood, Bastogne, Pusan, the Ia Drang Valley, Mosul, Kandahar and any number of miserable, dangerous places, citizen-soldiers have carried America’s faith and honor against her enemies.
All over America, young men and women such as these four lieutenants from NSU will be entrusted with our nation’s most precious resource, the lives of the men and women under their command. It is an awesome and humbling responsibility. No one can see the future. We do not know from whence trouble will come, only that it will. When it does, the finest young men and women this nation has to offer will rise to meet it.
Of the thousands of officers commissioned through ROTC, most will serve as reservists; some will go on full time active duty. Others, like General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, will go on to great things from a humble beginning. Most will return to civilian life in a few years, their lives enriched by their service. Located in colleges across America, ROTC is a huge force for social mobility.
When I stood during the National Anthem and watched the ceremony, the years melted away. It was once again a fine summer’s day in “…this eighth day of June in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and eighty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two-hundred and ninth…” at a small college in Georgia where I was commissioned in the Air Force. The subsequent thirty-eight years have been quite an adventure. I have no idea where my college diploma is, but my commissioning certificate is framed and hanging in my den. Godspeed Lieutenants Cade Davis, Taylor Dixon, Jimmy Lara and Michael Shamblin!
The Natchitoches Parish Journal is donating the event photography. The officers and their families are welcome to download any the wish with our compliments.