CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – “Many are called, but few are chosen” aptly describes the transitioning of three graduating students of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi from cadets to second lieutenants in the United States Army after successfully completing the Islander Army ROTC program. The commissioning ceremony, which was held Aug. 5 at the University Center, Lone Star Ballroom, was witnessed by friends and families of the graduating students as well as army officers already on active duty. Charles Abraham, Matthew Connell and Marco Moya were commissioned.
Emotions ran deep at the commissioning ceremony. Family and friends struggled to hold back tears of joy as they watched the newly commissioned officers receive their first salute – called a Silver Dollar Salute. The silver dollar tradition originated during the colonial era, when British officers paid “servants” a small sum of money to keep their gear in shape as well as teach them the ins and outs of military service. Today, new officers select among enlisted soldiers to initiate the first salute and hand over a silver dollar, as a sign of respect to the newly commissioned officers.
“It is a significant moment where you go from being an individual who salutes officers to being the individual that gets saluted,” said Captain Douglas Cruise, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Assistant Professor of Military Science. “Many years ago, I gave my first salute to my drill sergeant. He sat on the same level as my parents. Being able to receive the first salute from someone you really respect is a crowning moment.”
Just before receiving his first salute, Moya, a business marketing major, was administered the oath of service by his uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Garcia III.
“My uncle was a huge motivation for me to join ROTC,” said Moya. “Before I started college, I was often able to go to work with him, where I saw the camaraderie and the bond he shared with fellow soldiers. The Army offers fraternity, brotherhood and discipline and that was huge for me.”
For Abraham, a psychology major, the transition from cadet to second lieutenant was a huge accomplishment.
“Throughout my four years here, I have gone to US airborne schools, been able to travel to Croatia and gained lots of experiences,” said Abraham. “I had a lot of military family members as motivation. My father is a Marine. I have uncles who are in the Army and I wanted to serve my country.”
Undoubtedly, the ROTC program is not for everyone, as rigorous training sessions that sharpen the skills necessary for effective display of leadership are mandatory.
“The ROTC program comes with enormous demands, which includes maximizing all volunteer opportunities while trying to manage school simultaneously,” said Connell, a kinesiology major. “For those interested in the ROTC program, I encourage them to be pro-active, volunteer and ask all the questions needing answers. There is never a dumb question.”
Keynote speaker at the event, Colonel Russell Lewis – a Texas A&M University alumnus and Chief of Staff, Contingency Command Post of Task Force 51, U.S. Army North – had some words of wisdom for the newly commissioned officers.
“It is important to stay true to your values and take advantage of every opportunity,” advised Lewis. “Utilize the training you’ve been given. As long as you are disciplined, you are going to be successful out there.”
The commissioning ceremony came to an end with everyone up on their feet singing along to the official song of the Army, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
“Then it’s hi! hi! hey! The Army’s on its way,” chanted the crowd as Abraham, Connell and Moya stood tall and proud, eager for the start of their careers.