Remarks at ROTC Commissioning by LTC Peter Godfrin, Commander of the Paul Revere Battalion
25 May 2016

This year marks two very important milestones for the ROTC programs at Harvard. First, is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the National Defense Act of 1916 which established ROTC nationwide. And second, is the centennial of the establishment of the Harvard Regiment which predated ROTC by several months. Since then, tens of thousands of Harvard graduates have gone on to serve their country in uniform, many giving their last full measure of devotion. The names of those men and women are forever engraved on bronze plaques in the Memorial Church behind me. Each year I am asked to recognize the members of the 50th reunion class who gave their lives while serving their country. Those from the class of 1966 are:

Army 2nd Lieutenant Edward William Argy, a Field Artillery Battery Commander in the 9th Infantry Division.

Army 1st Lieutenant Peter Wyeth Johnson, a Special Forces Officer who earned the Distinguished Service Cross while leading his platoon against fortified North Vietnamese bunkers at the cost of his own life.

And, Marine Corporal Langdon Gates Burwell a Radio Telegraph Operator who served as a member of a Marine Corps Combined Action Program – a precursor to the Security Assistance Force Teams utilized in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the Massachusetts Vietnam War memorial in Worcester is inscribed a letter written by Corporal Burwell on January 29th, 1968 just five days before he was killed in action in South Vietnam. It reads:

β€œOne observation of mine is that, though the war is costing us, in many ways it is not costing us enough. For the cost is minimal to the continued existence of our society. Not actually being threated - we can pursue an imprudent policy without deeply suffering any consequences, and even more disastrous, make facts fit policy that the administration desires. Such are the dangers of the power we have. When we have movies every night, hot showers, and three solid meals a day you wonder what war is like. Of course things are different in the field. However, when you know the enemy never had this sort of thing, has been fighting since a child, and is on his own land - it makes you really wonder what you are fighting for. Naturally - you are willing to support the people who are oppressed - but who are they and how do we really help them? I hope someone is thinking about these last two things for they are the two most important questions facing the U.S. right now.”

These are questions that existed 50 years ago, they are questions that exist now, and they are questions I suspect you will continue to face as future leaders. I hope each of you will take full advantage of the learning you have gained at one world-class institution, Harvard, and use it to solve the complex problems you will face as you enter another world-class institution – the United States Military. Congratulations and thank you for your continued service to our country.