On September 2, 1997 I addressed the cadets, faculty, and staff at academic convocation about a class that is Loyal, Aware,Motivated, and Courageous.

On October 16, 1997 I addressed a senior class at the ring presentation. A class that was about to receive a great gift. That class was the 1998 Band of Brothers. Here I stand now May 9, 1998 addressing the world on what it is about to receive. The Citadel Class of 1998.

The 4 years of pain, hardships, sacrifice, and brotherhood are about to come to a close and the transformation will be complete. This transformation would not be so unique if it weren't for the academic faculty. The teachers and professors that got us here. They woke up every morning and put on a uniform just like all the cadets. Sure their brass may have been tarnished and their shoes lacking a good spit shine, but their hearts, minds, and time all went to the cadets. These individuals see cadets go from smelly, stinking, and bald knobs to the well groomed gentlemen you see seated before you today. To these members of the academic staff we thank you for giving us the knowledge we have today; you have prepared our minds for what the future may hold and for that you have our thanks.

The class of 1998 would also like to take a moment and thank a few individuals who dealt with our problems, such as special leaves, punishments, special orders, and dealings with Col.Lackey. These are the women in our cadet life Mrs.Redmond, Mrs.Spurlock, Mrs.Kennedy, Mrs.Jones, and Mrs. Smallridge in the commandant's office. Also, two other individuals who saw this class enter, and filled them with cookies, and who are here to watch us leave, Mrs. Ann Abed and Mrs. Susan Bowers. All of these women have played an important part in our lives here. As cadets and their love for us makes it all the more important that they are here to celebrate with us today.

The Class of 1998 is also blessed today to have two very important families seated among the cadets. The Combs family and the Goss family. Their sons, Matt Combs and Brent Goss, are receiving their diplomas and graduating with us today, just as they received their rings with us in October. Even though these two cadets are not with us in person they are with us in spirit. To the Combs family and the Goss family the class would like to thank you for blessing us with your sons' presence. The Lord works in mysterious ways and we know that Matt and Brent are in a beautiful place, and they have front row seats for this ceremony. If you look into each one of these cadets' eyes you can see these two cadets. They have laughed with us and cried with us and now they graduate with us. God bless you all and thank you for giving us the chance to get to know your sons.

It has been quoted "time flies when you are having fun" the individual who said this was obviously never a cadet at The Citadel. Time has flown by but it sure hasn't been fun all the time. Coming to The Citadel was a sacrifice, but one in which we are all very proud. I can think of very few schools that throw individuals together give them ample doses of stress and hardships, and then in turn bind then together to form such a tight fitting group of men. And I have seen that with this class. Despite popular belief The Citadel itself does not make the men, but rather it supplies the environment to form them. The members of this class have made us into the men we are. Our greatest strengths lie within each other, our fears within each other, and our success within each other. The Citadel gave us the means to become men, but without the help and support of each other we would have been no better off then when we entered Lesane gates on that hot August morning in 1994.

I would like to read you something that this senior class has heard before, and it is something that explains freshman year and the strife we went through and how it made us what we are.......

"The Citadel devised a formula years ago to improve the quality of men who walked through her gates.

The formula begins with the plebe system. One thing is certain. The plebe system is calculated to be, and generally succeeds in being, a nine month journey through hell. The freshman is beaten, harassed, ridiculed, and humiliated by upperclassmen who concur and believe in the traditions of the school. Under the pressure of this system, the freshman, in theory, becomes hardened to the savage hardships of the world. Life is tough, the system says, and we are going to make life so tough for you this year that when your marriage dissolves, your child dies unexpectedly, or your platoon gets decimated in a surprise attack, you can never say The Citadel didn't prepare you for the worst in life. So when the plebe walks into second battalion on the first day of school, he enters a world so unbalanced and precarious, it takes him the next three years of his life to regain his equilibrium. The freshman is a germ, an amoeba, the lowest form of life. He deserves no consideration for his human qualities, and he gets none. He finds himself called a litany of names and semi-curses: Knob, screw, wad, waste, dumbhead, abortion, nut, and many others. He is starved at breakfast, tantalized at lunch, and ignored at supper. He does push-ups till his arms are heavy as iron; he runs up steps till his thighs grow useless. He has no freedom, no privacy, and no time to study. He cries at night, writes piteous letters to his parents, and bemoans the day he ever wrote The Citadel. For nine months he marches, braces, and hustles in misery. But at the end of nine months a miracle as strange as birth takes place. The cadet looks in the mirror, and in a moment of supreme madness, decides he loves the place."

Taken From The Boo by Pat Conroy

It is safe to say that this system has since been changed. And it is sad to see how it has affected cadets past and present. Classmates perhaps now as alumni we can see how we were changed by this so called system, and how it taught us to deal with pain and suffer if need be. And to suffer if need be, we have suffered some great ordeals and we have grown stronger and pulled together because of it. Preserve us faithful to the ideals of The Citadel. Have we been preserved due to the recent changes? This is a question that we may have to consider.

This point in time is the end of the beginning of some 350 men. Parents, friends, faculty, and staff you are looking at the future doctors, lawyers, dentists, soldiers, politicians, engineers, teachers, and businessmen. And when we leave here today on our separate career paths we will not separate from within, we have been through too much together to forget that The Citadel and the class of 1998 still and will always exist. What we have learned from each other will be constant reminders of what we will succeed into. There will always be a member of this class in each one of us. When these future doctors and dentists are preforming surgeries '98 will be there. When these lawyers are cross examining a witness '98 will be there. When these soldiers are defending our country, '98 will be there. The class of 1998 will help you make that sale, build those bridges, teach those students and will help me, I mean you win that presidential election. Success is a classmate away.

I would like to thank and personally congratulate all of those members of this class that have received or will be receiving their military contracts. I am very fond of you all and wish you the best of luck, and maybe when you are all generals you can become president or commandant of The Citadel and the rest of us can be S.C.U.M lieutenants.

Today is a great day. Today this class departs and General Grinalds I am sorry you did not have a chance to get to know us better. I wish you could have seen these faces on August 14, 1994 because if you had you would have seen determination. You would have seen what we were determined to be, and if you were there to see our recognition you would have know what The Citadel system produced.

The future looks promising. The sky is the limit. Class of 1998 seated next to you is your brother, seated in front of you is your brother, and seated behind you is your brother. Furnished with their ring of gold, bonded together by each other.

I would like to take one final moment to ask the media a question. Where were you when this class came together and prayed for their lost classmates? When a spirit run was assembled in the memory of Citadel cadets? This is who we are brothers who have dealt with suffering. But we pulled through these tough times, we pulled through because of the strong feeling of love and fellowship we have for each other. And we have this college to thank for that, for if it were not for this institution we would have never met each other. I pray that one day the public will see that side of this institution because at no other school can you find something so strong.

Classmates, Band of Brothers here we are finishing what we thought we never would. About to take our final salute as cadets and walk and in some cases run, out of these gates. I ask one thing if you have ever had differences with any member of this class, regardless of position in rank or in public, take time to address the matter, for we entered here all the same and that is how we must leave. We must leave here today as Citadel Alumni and know that we can always call on each other in times of need and know we are talking to that same class of 1998 brother who was bracing next to us, wearing the ring beside us, and crossing the stage in front and behind us. We cannot hold grudges in the years to come for we are only as strong as our weakest link.

I have said it before and will say it again, there has been no greater honor than to serve as you class president and I shall continue as will Vice president Drew Farmer, Treasurer Lee Lewis, Secretary Stan Granger, Master of Revels Kyle Weeks and all the board of directors. These positions are for life and that is the way they will be treated. We can expect our reunions to be a bigger party than Dog Day. GOD BLESS THIS SCHOOL, THE ALUMNI, AND ABOVE ALL ELSE THE CLASS OF 1998.