To the Class of 2012 on the eve of your graduation... First, a note of congratulations. You have earned your place in the Long Gray Line. Tomorrow, the Commandant will give your First Captain the order to dismiss your class. You will toss your cap high in the air. You won't see where it goes. For in that moment 47 months of heaven, hell, and everything in between will pass before your eyes. Your cap will hang in the bright New York sky for but a moment, just as graduation will be but a moment in the journey of your life. Good God, though, what a moment it is. You have been told ad nauseum that you cannot fail. I don't doubt that you're as tired of hearing the old harangue about listening to your platoon sergeant, not failing your Soldiers, and remembering that their lives are in your hands. To be honest, most days, a Soldier's life is not in your hands. The times are rare when your decisions will result in the survival or death of your Soldiers. But those moments do happen. I know you'll be ready for it. You may not know it yet, but you will. You'll be facing a tough situation and you'll be scared. You'll be unsure of yourself and silent saying what we affectionately call our Pre-mission Prayer ("Please, oh Lord, don't let me **** this up"). In all likelihood, you won't drop the ball. You're tough people. Be tough. Despite the endless wisecracks you'll hear about LTs and all the ribbing you'll take, when the chips are down--and whether they'll admit it or not--your Soldiers are expecting there to be a dialed-in, focused, tough SOB underneath that gold or silver bar. West Point beat you up for four years to help you find that inside you. Speaking of which, don't ever forget where you came from. West Point is nothing to ever be ashamed of, even when some ROTC officer wants to jab at you about it, or your platoon sergeant makes a "ring-knocker" joke. Take it in stride. I want to thank you all for the chance to come speak with you this spring. Hopefully a few of you I met will actually get to read this. It was an honor to see the outstanding young people that you are. I'm glad you're not my classmates, though. For one, I think I have the best classmates in the world. But more to the point, if you were my peers I doubt I'd have ever been accepted. Hopefully you got something out of listening to us old folks ramble on. You are graduating on Memorial Day weekend, as I was lucky enough to do as well, and in so doing you are entering an amazing fraternity. No, we're not as flashy as the Marines and our commercials aren't as good. We don't have fast fighter jets, or nuclear anything, or cool movies with "real Navy SEALs." We're pretty big so we can't be as selective as we'd like to be. Our bases are in some fairly undesirable locations. There are a lot of great and glamorous aspects to which we as a service cannot lay claim. But we are the United States Army--an Army of free men and women. From Trenton to Yorktown, from Little Round Top to San Juan Hill, from the Marne River to the Meuse-Argonne, from Utah Beach to the Phillipines, from Pusan to Wonju, from Hue City to Mogadishu to Baghdad and beyond, this Army--your Army--has earned its place in history as the greatest land combat force ever conceived. You are now a part of the same Army that destroyed the Nazi war machine. You wear the same uniform as those who manned the ramparts in Berlin and kept the Soviets at bay. You are heir to the spirit which would not surrender Bastogne to the enemy. You will stand beside men like Paul Smith and Sal Giunta and Leroy Petry and be counted among their ranks. You are now part of that tried and tested fighting man's Army. The Army of Patton and Schwarzkopf. The Army of Petraeus. The Army of Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart. As your life goes on and you move about the world, you will meet many people with whom you might share nothing at all in common except that you both served honorably in the Army of the United States. To be a Soldier, to share those joys and hardships, is a bond so ethereal and sacred that I cannot describe it. It will tie you to total strangers. It will make you a brother to those you'll never know. It will serve as an underline and an exclamation point on your credibility as citizen of this country. Welcome to the Army. Thank you for serving.