Against the backdrop of the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., nine GW Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps students became military officers Friday morning.
A total of 24 students from GW, Georgetown, Howard, the University of Maryland, and Catholic were commissioned as Navy ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants at the early morning ceremony.
While gray skies signaled a threat of rain, the sun emerged from behind the thick clouds after the ceremony concluded.
Rear Admiral David L. “Deke” Philman, director of warfare integration for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and the ceremony’s keynote speaker, said he trusts the graduates will succeed in their new duties in the tradition of those who served before them.
“Remember as you begin your training and throughout your career that although your specialties are different, they all rely on our core pillars: honor, courage and commitment,” Philman said. “There is little doubt in my mind that this class of 2010 will serve, lead and succeed as well or better as those that have gone before us.”
Philman added the location of the ceremony provided the perfect context for the graduates’ newly assumed leadership and service roles.
“This is a fitting place for our nation to gain 24 new volunteers who have chosen to follow in the footsteps of heroes in defense of democracy and the American way of life,” he said.
Dr. Richard Southby, a distinguished professor of global health and the executive dean emeritus of the School of Public Health, spoke at the ceremony in his current role as president of the Association of NROTC Colleges and Universities. Southby said he hopes the graduates will always place a high value on service.
“By pursuing the paths that have brought you here today, you have demonstrated that you understand and accept this responsibility,” he said. “I have the impression that being in the service has fallen out of fashion with large segments of our society. This has disturbing consequences for the future.”
Graduates echoed the sentiments of history and tradition that come from having the ceremony at the War Memorial.
“It was an amazing ceremony. Having it here at Iwo Jima with all the history and tradition here makes it even better. I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I’m so proud to go into the Navy,” said Daniel Hearding, who graduated from the University of Maryland and was commissioned as a submarine warfare officer.
Maria Katrina Estante Ablen, a GW graduate commissioned as a surface warfare officer, said she is looking forward to serving her country now that she has completed her NROTC training.
“It feels great after four years of hard work,” Estante Ablen said. “To be commissioned with my classmates is one of the most gratifying emotions ever because we started together and finished together. Now we actually get to do something we worked so hard for.”
Samuel Charles Lada, a GW graduate commissioned as a student naval aviator, said he is eager to assume his new responsibilities in the Navy.
“There’s a long, proud tradition and heritage that I have to look up to,” Lada said. “Hopefully, I’m up to the task.”