There are morning runs and then there are morning memories that will last a lifetime. Such it was for me last Monday with the latter. I arose early at 0520 and departed the infamous DC bat cave heading towards the Lincoln Memorial. It was a nice cool 63 degrees with a good bit of humidity as I began my trek. I ran past our symbol of the legislative branch, the U.S. Capitol and headed down towards the DC mall. I saw up in the distance the magnificence of the Washington Monument, that brilliant obelisk that so perfectly stands in its simplicity to remind us of the exceptionalism of America. Just beyond on this clear morning I could see my destination, the Lincoln Memorial and could even make out the figure of President Abraham Lincoln gazing forward.
However, before hitting the Lincoln Memorial, I ran past the World War II Memorial, which in the early morning silence served to remind me of the service of the Greatest Generation of which my dad was a member and proudly served his nation in the European Theater of Operations.
As I came upon the Lincoln Memorial, shadowy figures reminded me of days gone by. The Hoya Battalion Cadets of the combined DC area ROTC programs — Georgetown, George Washington, American, and Catholic Universities — gathering and forming up for morning PT. You can see the video below.
I was there at the behest of the Georgetown University ROTC senior instructor LTC Michael Donahue, who was a young artillery captain when I was a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division — time does certainly fly. Being with those cadets reminded me of my days at Kansas State University as an ROTC instructor and I pondered the young men and women whom I trained and were commissioned who are now senior LTCs and promotable Colonels.
And so there I was, once again running with America’s future Army leaders — as well as our nation’s future leaders. I had run about 4.5 miles from my cave to the Lincoln Memorial but was nicely warmed up for our 3-mile run together. I was so inspired, I even called running cadence. We ran back past the World War II Memorial and the Washington Memorial and made the turn back at the Smithsonian museum.
And as we came back to the Lincoln Memorial, we made a right turn and did a silent march past The Vietnam War Memorial, “The Wall.” Walking past I thought of those nearly 55,000 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice, the last full measure of devotion — I softly whispered to them, “welcome home,” And my heart gave thanks to the Lord that my older brother, Herman West Jr. who served with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, survived the hellish days at Khe Sanh and did come home.
Back at the Lincoln Memorial I was given the honor of giving the oath to several cadets who have decided to pursue a commission in the U.S. Army — there beneath Abraham Lincoln’s watchful eyes. And I had the pleasure of addressing the gathered 230 or so cadets and thanking them for being that next generation of American warriors who will preserve the liberties and freedoms of this Republic. I told them of the legacy of service in my own family, which is now in the fourth generation with my nephew. And from that I explained that the greatness of America is guarded by them and the honor, integrity, and character they evidence in being “Guardians of the Republic” — those who now carry that torch handed down from men and women such as my dad to subsequent generations committed to service, sacrifice, and commitment.
This morning was not just another morning run — it was a reminder of what it means to be an American Spartan, an opportunity to run with the future Spartans as we gazed upon the symbols and objects of our national pride. It was truly a memorable moment in my life — Army Strong!