Most West Point grads headed to war |

Most West Point grads headed to war

Michael Hill
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

WEST POINT, N.Y. ” The class of 2008 graduated Saturday from the U.S. Military Academy, 972 men and women who were saluted by the top Army official for their willingness to serve during deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Secretary Pete Geren told the cadets that 11 West Point graduates have died in service to their country since last May’s graduation ceremony. He lauded their courage and thanked them for defending the “transcendent” ideals of the Constitution.

“There’s always a personal cost in your profession of arms. Your willingness to bear the cost ennobles you, your calling and this gathering,” he said.

West Point graduates become second lieutenants in the U.S. Army and most are expected to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. About a dozen of the graduates have already served as enlisted troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Geren told the cadets they have their chance to make history like other West Point graduates, listing the names of famous generals from Ulysses Grant to David Petraeus.

“Our nation needs you and we salute you,” he said under a cloudy sky that gave way to rain before the traditional hat toss.

This year’s graduates entered the academy in the fall of 2004, more than a year into the war in Iraq. After four years of grueling drills and studies, graduates said they are prepared.

“Eager, willing, ready ” all of the above,” said Lt. Tim Donohue of Pittsburgh.

Lt. Stefanie Keck of Escondido, Calif., said not even the recent death of her boyfriend while serving in the Army in Iraq has shaken her resolve. He did what was needed and now she will.

“I’m so ready, more than ready,” Keck said moments after taking her oath. “I’m supposed to be a platoon leader, and I want to be the one that makes sure they get home,” she said.

The graduates included 148 women and 14 cadets from other countries, including Albania, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.

The academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, a veteran of Afghanistan, told the graduates they have a chance to serve a cause larger then themselves.

“You’re ready,” Hagenbeck said. “Trust me, you’re ready.”

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