During the 221st commencement at West Point Military Academy, Vice President Pence told the graduating class of 2019 – 980 cadets who became U.S. Army second lieutenants – that the world is a ‘dangerous place’ and that it’s a ‘virtual certainty that they will fight on the battlefield at some point during their lives’.
“You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen,” Pence declared.
The Class of 2019 is the most diverse graduating class in West Point’s history and included 223 women, with 34 of them being African-American – both all-time highs since the very first female cadets graduating in 1980. This year the prestigious military academy also graduated its 5,000th woman and 1,000th Jewish cadet. There were also 88 Hispanics who graduated.
During his address, Pence acknowledged “the historical milestones that we’re marking today.’
“Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he declared. “Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”
As Vice President Pence congratulated the graduates on behalf of President Donald Trump, he said, “As you accept the mantle of leadership I promise you, your commander in chief will always have your back resident Donald Trump is the best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have.”
Pence also mentioned that Trump had proposed a $750 billion defense budget for 2020 while he declared that the U.S. ‘is once again embracing its role as the leader of the free world.’
Pence’s remarks come as the United States plans to send 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration has described as ‘threats from Iran.’ Meanwhile, the longest war in the country’s history rages on in Afghanistan.
Recently, because of the migrant crisis, the Trump administration has depended more heavily on the military to deter migrants from illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.
Although VP Pence did not serve in the military himself, he noted that his father had served in the Army during the Korean War.
“As I stand before you today here at West Point I can’t help but think that First Lt. Edward J. Pence, looking down from glory, is finally impressed with his third son,’ Pence stated.
The ceremony marks VP Pence’s second visit to West Point and his first time as a commencement speaker.