The Citadel is in the process of building a war memorial to honor our fallen dead graduates. The roll is rather large considering the size of the Corps of Cadets in proportion to the sacrifices and the number of cadets who enter military service. I wrote my check as a dutiful graduate of my beloved Citadel. I myself was medically retired early as an infantry captain due to injuries while I was a rifle company commander.
When I wrote the check, I was struck not only by our war dead, but by the number of life-altering injuries Citadel graduates have sustained in service. Also, many Citadel graduates have been killed in service to our country just while training.
My sophomore-year roommate, who was an AC 130 Specter Gunship pilot in the Air Force, died when his plane crashed on takeoff in Kentucky in 1992. Another classmate died when his Harrier jump jet went down during Team Spirit 1989 in Korea. His body was never recovered in the ocean.
This led me to think about the relationship between Charleston and The Citadel cadets. When I was a cadet, many establishments and girls from the College of Charleston did not like us on Friday after parade or during the weekend when we were set loose upon Charleston. In many instances this could be well understood.
We were and are a rowdy bunch after being locked up for extended periods of time. But we Citadel men and now women love Charleston, and I do not think the people of Charleston have always welcomed us because of our behavior.
Yes, I rode the Coburg Cow west of the Ashley. Yes, I chased girls and got kicked out of places in my youthful exuberance. I am sure that still goes on.
But cadets’ acts and sacrifices after graduation, I feel, are overlooked by citizens of Charleston. We graduates look at Charleston as our second home. We love it that much. Close to a third of the cadets enter our nation’s armed forces. We are then forgotten in Charleston as a new group of cadets enters the gates.
I am sure Lt. Gen. John Rosa, The Citadel’s president, and Col. Leo Mercado, the commandant of cadets, do not want or need the pressure of cadets misbehaving in town. Their goal is to train and educate citizen-soldiers for our nation. Not only do they do a great job of this, but so did those who came before them.
I ask the people of Charleston to try to get to know the cadets. Go to Citadel football games and fill the stands. Look at the cadets march onto the field. Support your local college football program.
This would be a great opportunity to get to understand cadets before they march off to the unknown and very perilous world outside our secure gates.
Contribute to the new war memorial.
Embrace The Citadel as we have embraced your beautiful city since 1842.
Captain, U.S. Army (medically retired)
The Citadel, Class of 1986
Lake Hopatcong, N.J.