After Commencement weekend, most Cornell graduates will move on to a job or graduate school. But a small, self-selected group will embark immediately on a well-plotted career in the military.
In a traditional ceremony May 27 in Statler Auditorium, 14 graduates of Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs were formally commissioned as second lieutenants and midshipmen, to the accompaniment of cheers and applause from a packed house of friends, relatives and fellow cadets.
“You could feel the excitement and pride in the room,” said Ensign Courtney McGranaghan. “Now, I truly cannot wait for what lies ahead.”
Two graduates, 2nd Lt. Charlotte Levine and 2nd Lt. Eva Garrido, achieved national honors in the Army ROTC program and have been named Distinguished Military Graduates.
Of 5,506 seniors, Levine is the No. 3 cadet nationally and Garrido is in the top 10 percent. Levine, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in government and history, will attend the Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course in June. Garrido, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in government and Spanish, will join the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, upon successful completion of Intelligence Basic Officer Leaders Course.
In his opening remarks, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. (Ret.) reminded the audience that the United States is unique in having a military service built on the voluntary participation of its citizens.
One by one, the graduating cadets came to the stage to take the oath of office: “… to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Then parents and relatives came on stage to affix gold bars to each new officer’s uniform, with many exchanging hugs and handshakes.
It is military tradition that a newly commissioned officer receiving a first salute from an enlisted person should present the saluter with a silver dollar, and that was the next step in the ceremony. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Herrera, a member of Cornell ROTC staff, took many of the salutes, greeting each new officer with a crisp, “Good morning Sir!”
Did it seem strange calling a fresh-faced student “Sir?”
“I just looked at the shiny bars,” Herrera said.
The salute might be considered the most significant moment of the ceremony. After all the formal declarations, it is the first acknowledgement from a service member of the new officer’s status.
Many of the graduates received their first salute from a friend or relative in civilian clothes. A reception was held following the ceremony, where new officers were congratulated by family members still in active service.
“For me, today’s ceremony was a good chance to reflect on the work that has brought us here, but more importantly on the work that is yet to come,” said 2nd Lt. John M. Pedro of Vestal, New York. “It’s a responsibility as much as it is an opportunity, and I can’t wait to see all of the great things my peers are going to do for our country.”
He will receive a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of Arts and Sciences. His first assignment will be as an intelligence officer with the 315th Training Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.
The ceremony concluded with the reading of a letter from the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, signing military orders “for the president,” formally conferring all the commissions.
After a benediction, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force anthems were played. “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder” seemed an appropriate sendoff for students embarking on a new chapter in life.