Residents should be very proud that three Hicksville High School graduates - Erik Nerdalen and Matthew Lyster from West Point and Daniel Rogers from Annapolis - graduated from military academies this past weekend. I had the honor of attending the West Point ceremony and I get a need to express what I observed.
As a boy growing up in Queens not a day passed without a sport being played or without recognizing the stars who played them. With the completion of one season and the beginning of another, a new set of stars and role models emerged.
Today, in most neighborhoods, little about the adulated athletes has changed except the names. Children still trade and "flip" their cards. They attend auctions to buy and sell their heroes - we didn't do that. The names changed from William, Mickey, the Duke, Y.A. Gilbert and Guerin to our present stars. Little boys and girls continue to posture and worship their heroes standing in the batter's box, throwing a football or taking a slap shot or going to the hoop (we didn't group up with soccer or lacrosse).
On Saturday, May 27, fully aware that I am no longer that "little boy" and while in attendance at the West Point graduation ceremony, it was apparent to me that I had not been admiring and collecting "pictures" of the real role model and heroes - the men and women of our Armed Forces. They have no season; there are no cards with their pictures only their ongoing sacrifice and commitment to all Americans to preserve our freedom and safety as well as those of others. Please, no political commentaries. Focus on the individuals who make it possible for all of us to take a stand for or against this war in Iraq. This is not about that.
It was an honor to observe over 800 cadets receive their diplomas and a congratulatory handshake from President George W. Bush. These young men and women are the real heroes. Soon after these young cadets were appointed as second lieutenants, a thrill traveled from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes and tears filled me eyes as they, in unison, took their Oath of Office. This was no "subway series." No junk talk. This oath is not a game!
As an American, I applaud these young adults and all others who have made this commitment to us. They are the real heroes on the "playing fields," they are the individuals whose pictures should be displayed on cards, collecting the millions of dollars in salary, endorsements and assigning bonuses. Too often we take for granted the true role models. I watched in amazement what I interpreted as a bittersweet feeling of expression by many parents, relatives and friends in attendance. As a parent of two young adults myself, I could feel the pride they felt in what their child had accomplished mixed with vast concern of what is to be in the future.
As I followed each name being read, I wondered why these names and pictures were not in the hands of our "little guys," their names on the tips of our tongues, their sacrifice noted more typically. More so, I repeated to myself: Do they truly understand what a responsibility they have undertaken? I was truly overwhelmed by the entire events of the day!
To cap off one of the most patriotic days of my life, I arrived home in time to view Saving Private Ryan. After watching it (for the 10th time, the brutal scene on the beach during the Invasion of Normandy), I was again reminded how many Americans have faithfully discharged their duties of office to provide for all of us the many opportunities we have been provided.
As I looked out my window and view the American flag flapping in the gentle breeze in honor of Memorial Day, I could only recall the less than 100 demonstrators at West Point awaiting the arrival of President Bush. How ironic that they would not step inside Michie Stadium to thank the very people responsible for preserving this freedom without incident. However, I will thank all of you for your commitment of loyalty and bravery. All of you will be in my prayers. I am sure God will bless all of you. After all, they are the real role models and superstars. Step back A Rod, Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods.
Congratulations to Erik, Matt and Dan as well as any other Hicksville residents who may have also graduated from military academies.