Thanks to my fellow veterans:
I remember the day I found out I got into West Point. My Mom actually showed up in the
hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out of class.
She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my admission letter. She
wasn't crying because it had been her dream for me to go there. She was crying because she
knew how hard I'd worked to get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be
an infantry officer.
I was going to get that opportunity. That same day two of my teachers took me aside and
essentially told me the following: "David, you're a smart guy. You don't have to join the military.
You should go to college, instead."
I could easily write a theme defending West Point and the military as I did that day, explaining
that United States Military Academy is an elite institution, that separate from that, it is actually
statistically much harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that serving
the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men should at least consider for a host of reasons,
but I won't.
What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that attending West Point is going to
be bad for his future then there is a dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many
Americans have no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing.
In World War II, 11.2% of the nation's population served for four (4) years.
During the Vietnam era, 4.3% of the nation's population served in twelve (12) years.
Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War on Terror.
These are unbelievable statistics. Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered more and
more of the burden and it is only getting worse.
Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10% veterans with only one
person having a child in the military. Taxes did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were
not sold. Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and
has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts.
The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The
people who swore an oath to defend this nation. You stand there, deployment after deployment
and fight on. You've lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme conditions, years
apart from kids you'll never get back, and beaten your body in a way that even professional
athletes don't understand.
Then you come home to a nation that doesn't understand. They don't understand suffering.
They don't understand sacrifice. They don't understand why we fight for them. They don't
understand that bad people exist. They look at you like you're a machine - like something is
Wrong with you. You are the misguided one - not them.
When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political science teachers that discount
your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because YOU WERE THERE and can't understand the
macro issues they gathered from books, because of your bias.
You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at that. Your Congress is
debating your benefits, your retirement, and your pay, while they ask you to do more. But, the
amazing thing about you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay back
what you've given up. You know that the populace at large will never truly understand or
appreciate what you have done for them.
Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than normal for having worn the
uniform. But you do it anyway.
You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775. YOU SERVED.
Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.
"Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." -Winston
Churchill- Thank you to the 11.2% and 4.3% who have served and thanks to the 0.45% who
continue to serve our Nation.
General David Petraeus, West Point Class 1974
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the
members of the U.S. ARMED FORCES don't have that problem."
General David Howell Petraeus - A brief biography
Upon graduation from West Point in 1974, Petraeus was commissioned an infantry officer. After
completing Ranger School (Distinguished Honor Graduate), Petraeus was assigned to the 509th
Airborne Battalion Combat Team, a light infantry unit in Vicenza, Italy. Ever since then, light
infantry has been at the core of his career, punctuated by assignments to mechanized units, unit
commands, staff assignments, and educational institutions.
Graduating the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1983, as the General George C.
Marshall Award winner as the top graduate, he went on to advanced educational assignments,
esarning his PhD and teaching at West Point degree from 1985-1987.
Petraeus commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)'s 3rd Battalion 187th Infantry
Regiment, known as the "Iron Rakkasans", from 1991–1993. During this period, he suffered one
of the more dramatic incidents in his career - in 1991 he was accidentally shot in the chest with
an M-16 assault rifle during a live-fire exercise when a soldier tripped and his rifle discharged.
He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, where he was
operated on by future U.S. Senator Bill Frist. The hospital released him early after he did fifty
push-ups without resting, just a few days after the accident.
In 1999, as a brigadier general, Petraeus returned to the 82nd, serving as the assistant division
commander for operations and then, briefly, as acting commanding general. During his time with
the 82nd, he deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring, the continuous rotation of
combat forces through Kuwait during the decade after the Gulf War.
In 2003, Petraeus, then a Major General, saw combat for the first time when he commanded the
101st Airborne Division during V Corps's drive to Baghdad.
In June 2004, less than six months after the 101st returned to the U.S., Petraeus was promoted
to lieutenant general and became the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition
In January 2007, as part of his overhauled Iraq strategy, President George W. Bush announced
that Petraeus would succeed Gen. George Casey as commanding general of MNF-I to lead all U.S.
troops in Iraq.
On October 31, 2008, Petraeus assumed command of the United States Central Command
(USCENTCOM) headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Petraeus was responsible for U.S. operations in
20 countries spreading from Egypt to Pakistan—including Operations Iraqi Freedom and
On June 23, 2010, President Obama announced that he would nominate Petraeus to succeed
General Stanley A. McChrystal as the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
Petraeus retired from the U.S. Army on August 31, 2011. On April 28, 2011, President Barack
Obama announced that he had nominated Petraeus to become the new Director of the Central
On 9 November 2012, citing an extra-martial affair, Petraeus announced his resignation from the
CIA. General Petraeus remains a well respected soldier by trops and peers alike.