There are three words that are deeply entrenched in a cadet's heart, three words that he zealously guards against defilement and pollution.
These three are: COURAGE, INTEGRITY, and LOYALTY. They are not cold and meaningless abstractions. They are not merely words. They are beacon lights that illumine the way as the cadet journeys toward the goal of his ambitions.
They form the vertices of the triangle that bind the limits of the sphere of his conduct. This triumvirate of manly virtues is the basic pillar of a cadet's character.
A failing or a weakening of one eventuates in the collapse of the moral make-up of a cadet. Each in conjunction with the other two acts as a moral fortress to safeguard the cadet against the onslaughts of the vicious and corruptive influences of the world.
The first word in the motto of the Academy is COURAGE. By the very nature of the career for which the cadet is being rigorously trained, it is plainly evident that this soldierly quality should come first.
A cadet is an officer in the making. He has chosen to embrace the noble profession of arms and has consecrated himself to its ideals. The career of a soldier calls for a fighting spirit, a stout heart, and a militant disposition.
In the scheme of life, a soldier is prominently a fighter. He cannot be such unless he has the elemental virtue of soldiership: COURAGE.
An officer does not fight his battles alone. He leads men to battle, and it requires a greater degree of courage to be the heart and soul of a fighting unit. It is hardly conceivable that a man who is faint of heart and weak of knee could lead men victoriously in battle.
By courage is meant not merely daring and fearlessness. COURAGE is a generic term. It means the fortitude with which Washington met the adversaries at Valley Forge during the darkest hours of the American Revolution.
It means the gallantry and valor that General Del Pilar displayed in his heroic defense of Tirad Pass. It means the bravery and prowess of Hannibal when he picked up the gauntlet thrown at him by the seemingly formidable Alps. It means the boldness of the Light Brigade in their famous charge which Tennyson has ably immortalized in stirring poetry.
It means the passive courage which enabled the early Christians to meet persecutions and martyrdom with a smile on their lips and a song in their hearts.
By COURAGE in the motto of the Academy is meant one who is tempered by judicious judgment. It does not in the least imply reckless daring and fool-hardy dauntlessness.
By COURAGE is meant not merely to be able to walk right into the mouth of a belching cannon, unflinchingly, or to be able to face a firing squad calmly and serenely. It also means moral courage: the fearlessness to stand up and fight for what one thinks is right.
It is the courage to defend one's ideals against an erring world. It is the courage to be able to acknowledge a wrong in the face of a jeering and hooting multitude. It is the courage to be able to persevere in the midst of the most trying circumstances. It is the courage to be able to stand firm on one's convictions.
Integrity is the second word in the motto. This trait of character is the most important of the three. The other two may be disregarded but never, never this second. Strike out the second and a cadet or any man for that matter will be a wretch, a scum of the lowest stratum of society, an abominable creature who is a living dead.
This quality a cadet must possess to the highest degree not only because his future career exacts it from him but also because he is a part of the body politic whose members should rightfully be men of integrity.
INTEGRITY means honesty, uprightness, moral soundness. A cadet should guard his moral rectitude zealously lest it be stigmatized or blemished. History records the degeneracy of races, the disintegration of nations, the decline and fall of power and dominancy of what had been strong peoples because of the low and ruinous morals that gripped them. To secure to himself, therefore, an unimpeachable integrity the cadet has entrusted himself under the hallowed guardianship of an Honor Code.
INTEGRITY is a man's delicate asset. It is hard to keep it untarnished in a world that seethes with profligate vices and degenerate crimes. Yet if he can keep it unstained inspite of the malignant forces of evil, he has passed man's greatest ordeal.
It is needless to theorize, it is superfluous to expostulate on the advisability of possessing an integrity that defies reproach. What does it profit a man if he has the whole world trampled under his iron heels but is a moral wreck? The military profession is one profession that demands an extremely high degree of integrity.
A man of low morals and weak principles unindoctrinated in the rules of upright living and good conduct is a hateful pest that is unwanted in the army and in society as a whole. We hear of antrocious crimes committed by unprincipled soldiers in time of war. Crimes of unfold vulgarity and meanness that we blush when we hear of them.
Those soldiers had courage; they had loyalty. But they lacked that one vital virtue: INTEGRITY. In the absence of this manly quality, they became a curse of humanity instead of professed protectors of the weak and the defenseless. Such is the importance of integrity in men who live by the sword.
Now comes the third and last word which is all-encompassing and highly paramount: Loyalty. It means allegiance permeated with strong and enthusiastic feeling or sentiment.
It means loyalty to loved ones; loyalty to superiors; loyalty to constituted authority; loyalty, solid and indivisible, to the country. A disloyal soldier has no place in an organized and disciplined army. No element can be more disruptive to any organization than a rebellious, treacherous, and disloyal member.
Loyalty is the binding and unifying force in any army. It is the invisible chain of steel that links men together. Remove the spirit of loyalty from the members of a command and the unit will collapse like a house of cards.
This soldierly virtue is a preponderant factor in welding men in a spirit of harmonious relationship and mutual understanding and sympathy.
By LOYALTY in the motto is meant one which emphasizes the idea of objective obligation.
It is the loyalty as exemplified by those who, loyal to the last to the country's cause, 'died in the night' fighting against formidable odds to bestow upon their posterity a heritage of liberty championed by a government founded upon the ideals and principles of democracy.
It is the loyalty that looks upon mutiny and treachery as despicable and odious. It is loyalty that looks upon the crime of Benedict Arnold as heinous and unpardonable. Loyalty, however, does not contenance blind obedience. It does not approve of obnoxious officiousness.
Loyalty - yes, but not fawning and cringing servility. It is loyalty that is wise and discreet, not enslaving and debasing.
COURAGE! INTEGRITY! LOYALTY! It is not a lip-motto; it is a living commitment. In and by this motto a cadet shall live and die if necessary