Alcorn State University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program commissioned eight new Officers into the military on Friday, May 10.

The ceremony began with a processional of officials, followed by a rendition of the national anthem and the invocation. The audience was then addressed by honored guest speaker Major General Michael J. Talley, chief of staff and deputy commanding general, United States Army Medical Command and Chief, Medical Service Corps.

Maj. Gen. Talley expressed his pride in the cadets he coined “The Great 8.” Elaborating on each student’s impressive credentials, as well as humorous anecdotes of his personal experiences with them, he encouraged the families of the cadets to be proud of their accomplishments. Acknowledging military families, as well as the surprise and fear of families who learn that their beloved scholars want to “jump from planes” as a career, Maj. Gen. Talley emphasized that service is indeed a noble honor.

“We’re in our 50th year in the United States Military as an all-volunteer force,” he said. “Less than 1% of our country make the commitment that our soon-to-be lieutenants are about to make here today,” he said. “They are about to join a team of teams. They’ve taken on something that is bigger than themselves.”

Maj. Gen. Talley encouraged the cadets to listen to the words of their oath, expressing that they are, of their own volition, pledging allegiance to a set of ideals based on loyalty, duty, respect, and personal courage. He emphasized the importance of integrity and strength of character that they must possess in their new leadership roles.

“You’ll be in charge of 30 men and women. Some of them are older than you. Some have families. Don’t ask them to do anything that you would not do. If it’s cold and raining, and they’ve got to dig a foxhole, guess what? You get right out there with them. We lead from the front, and we suffer the hardships the same. They will love you if you show that commitment and care.”

Dr. Tracy Cook, 21st president of Alcorn State University, formally received the recommendation of Lt. Col. Jackey Fortenberry, professor of military science, to commission the students. “I take great pride in their achievements and commend them for reaching this milestone,” he said.

Afterward, the commissioning began. Students were pinned by their family members and loved ones and received their first salute from a non-commissioned officer. President Cook and Lt. Col. Fortenberry then presented them with accolades.

Cadets who were commissioned during the spring ceremony are Cedric Brown Jr., an animal science major from Jackson, Miss.; Vanessa Washington, a biology – pre-medicine major from Little Rock, Ark.; Kiesha Lewis, a biology major from Hazlehurst, Miss.; Terrell White, a criminal justice major, is a native of Fort Myers, Fla., DeAnna Sanders, a native of Starkville Miss. and a homeland security management major; Vernetta Hopkins, a senior criminal justice major from Memphis, Tenn., Melik Taylor, a psychology major from Jackson, Miss., and Rayiah Buie from Hazelhurst, Miss., majoring in biology – pre-med.

As the ceremony closed, Dr. Cook addressed the newly commissioned lieutenants and their families.

“We’re really going to miss you,” he said to the graduating commissioned officers. “We’re going to need you to send us more students like you.”

“To the parents and loved ones, thank you for supporting Alcorn State University.”

He concluded by expressing gratitude to Maj. Gen. Tally.

“Thank you for your visit here. Don’t let this be your last visit. You’re always welcome where the grass is greener, the air is cleaner, and the water is just a little bit sweeter,” he said as the audience of faculty, staff, students, and alumni joined in stating the familiar refrain.

Army ROTC is the largest officer-producing organization in the American military, with over 600,000 men and women having earned commissions through the program.