A Pre-Christmas Graduation Speech for
Two Infantry Training Brigade Companies

By LTC Douglas E. McCallum
2-19th Infantry Regiment Commander
Kanell Field, Sand Hill, Ft. Benning, Georgia
December 2000

Fellow Cdrs, CSMs, Family and friends, Infantrymen of Alpha and Charlie Companies, and future Infantrymen of Delta Co. 2-19,

Let me start out by being the first to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season. Now you may think it is not appropriate for me to talk about this holiday season at a graduation ceremony, but let me tell you why it is entirely appropriate. First, we can talk about all the gift-giving going on here today. We'll start out by listing some gifts the Army has given these soldiers:

On the more serious side, another gift we've received this morning is from the Infantry band. The Infantry Band has been giving gifts. They have, as usual, put on a great show for us today. Can I ask all of us to show them our appreciation of their honoring our graduating Infantrymen by a big round of applause? ... Merry Christmas, Infantry Band.

Also, in the stands today are hundreds and hundreds of parents, grandparents, wives, brothers, sisters, and friends of these soldiers. Your gift-giving to these soldiers started about 20 years ago with the changing of diapers and testing of strained carrots; it progressed through those wonderfully stable teenage years with driving lessons and sleeplessness as you worried about their late nights...and your car insurance premiums. Over the years you provided these young men the background, morals, and opportunity for them to be here today. And your giving has continued to this day as you have traveled from all over the US, and several I've met from overseas. You have given a lot of your time and money to be here for your soldier at this very significant ceremony. These soldiers are here because of you. Merry Christmas to you, and Thank you for your gift of love and support for these soldiers.

And then there is the gift that our Infantrymen have given and continue to give. Let's talk about our Infantrymen of Christmas past. 224 years ago, on Christmas Day, 1776, when our American Revolution, and our Country was at it's very darkest hour, when what was left of our Army (smaller than this brigade) had retreated across New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania, when enlistment contracts were up and yet Infantrymen still stayed on despite British and Hessian forces looting their homes, when Gen. Washington in an amazing raid, took his Army across the Delaware River in a blinding winter storm, when half his Army couldn't cross because of the ice and snow, when three men froze to death along the way, when one of Gen. Washington's aids wrote that he was "....most concerned about the men who had no shoes...", did surprise and defeat a mercenary Hessian force and captured their stores at Trenton that blew life into our American Revolution. These early Americans gave us the present of our Country.

How about our Infantrymen of Christmas present, like these two up on the podium with me as my guests of honor. Pvt. Conrad and Gradick both experienced excruciating pain during the final 25-mile road march. They didn't complain and finished the road march and went to sick call where one found out he had conducted the road march with a fractured foot and the other had a torn ACL and leg fracture. That is a gift of personal courage. Or how about the gift of honor by Pvt. Nesmith. His grandfather MSG USA retired Herbert Nesmith, died while his grandson was out on the final Field Training Exercise. Pvt. Nesmith's grandfather had served many years, giving his own life over in service to our country, earning both the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit while doing so. The family postponed the funeral until their son could finish the FTX because that is what they knew the grandfather would have wanted. Pvt. Nesmith went home on leave and served in the honor guard for his grandfather's funeral, where his sharp appearance and dedication gave tremendous dignity, honor, and a sense of comfort to his family. Merry Christmas to Pvts. Conrad, Gradick, Nesmith, and all our Infantrymen on the field before you. By your efforts you continue to give America the priceless gift of freedom.

And we have the Infantrymen of Christmas future over to our right, who recently have set the highest basic rifle marksmanship scores in the history of the Battalion. Also, one of their platoons recently found out that a soldier was flat broke and could not afford to pay for the ticket home for Christmas. Before you knew it, a collection was taken and this soldier found himself with a ticket home for Christmas, but also enough left over for a Christmas present for his wife and child. Thank you and Merry Christmas, men of Delta Company, for your gift of loyalty and selflessness.

And finally, let me talk about the gift to your soldiers by these great American heroes-the Infantry NCO. They are the crown jewel of the US Army-in their role as Drill Sergeants. You will not hear them complain about their long duty hours or lack of sleep. But they work hard because it is a sacred duty- training your sons to win our nation's wars. Here's just one example of what I see them do on a daily basis: I observed one of these drills finally get off staff duty after 30 straight hours of work, but instead of going home for the day, I saw him in the dining facility with a huge mug of coffee only three hours later. When I asked him why he wasn't home on his day off getting some sleep, he responded that his soldiers were learning to shoot on the range and he needed to be there to teach them. Merry Christmas, Drill Sergeants; Thank you for your gift of duty and inspiration.

In conclusion, congratulations soldiers of Alpha and Charlie Companies, you are now US Army Infantrymen. Remember what you have learned, how you must lead your lives. Being an Infantryman means you earn that blue cord every single day. Good luck to you in your future assignments.

And finally, to everybody here today and all of America, Happy Holidays and fervent wishes for the greatest gift of all: Peace on Earth, brought to you by the Grace of God and the sacrifices of our U.S. Army Infantrymen.

Rock Force!