Culver’s mission of developing character – to choose the harder right – is what has carried its alumni to greatness in many fields, Lt. Gen. John J. Woodmansee Jr. (U.S. Army, retired) said. And it is that continuing mission of cultivating character in its students that will carry it forward another 100 years.
Woodmansee ’52 was the keynote speaker at the Nov. 10 dinner to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. He also served as the reviewing officer during the retreat conducted earlier in the day. Representatives from the six Allied nations (Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Romania and Serbia) that attended the original dedication ceremony of the Legion Memorial Building in 1924 were also honored.
He told the audience about three Culver Gold Star men – Donald Duncan (Class of 1907), John Schneider Jr. (Class of 1917), and Alexander Mathews (Class of 1914) – who had served exceptionally during World War I. Each was honored for their valor and service.
They, like all of Culver’s Gold Star men, did their duty. They said, “we gotta get this thing done.” In just a period of 47 days, the Americans suffered 120,000 killed and missing, Woodmansee said. And it should be remembered the United States entered the war late. The Allies “here tonight suffered greatly” before that.
World War I soldiers suffered shell shock, which Woodmansee called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “cubed,” from the constant artillery fire, poison gas, trench foot, and the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Through all that, they performed their duty.
That is the question all soldiers ask themselves, Woodmansee said, “Would I show courage?” It was a question he asked of himself. But during his time in Vietnam it never occurred to him. He talked with other battalion commanders about it and they all agreed. “You never talked about it,” he explained. “You just do it.”
Later, he asked World War II Medal of Honor winner Lt. James Burt to speak to his men at Fort Hood. Burt said some people ask him if he was afraid and he tells them, “No. We are all handmaidens of duty; and if it must be done, do it, and there will be no fear.”
It is that sense of duty that will lead men and women to perform under any kind of circumstances. “They will know what to do,” he said.
And it is where Culver’s challenging and rewarding environment comes into play. No high school has the responsibility to prepare a person for battle, Woodmansee said, but Culver prepares people of life. The love of learning and other habits he picked up at Culver have “served me all my life.”
And Culver’s development of character – developing that sense of duty – is what allows its graduates to “perform in the real world.”
The dignitaries who were present at the dinner and the weekend included:
- Col. Dragan Galic & Mrs. Slavica Galic, Serbia
- Lt. Col. Heide Libert & Mr. Philippe Dirix, Belgium
- Col. Pierre Prod’Homme, France
- Maj. Niall McCracken & Ms. Silvia Gehrer, Great Britain
- Col. Filippo Gabriele & Comm. Sgt. Maj. Luciano Visconti, Italy
- Col. Marius Moldovan & Mrs. Iulia Moldovan, Romania
- Mr. Paul Gignilliat ’49 & Mrs. Ellen Gignilliat (Gold Star legacy)
- Col. Al Shine & Mrs. Sandra Shine (Veterans Day speaker)
- Lt. Gen. Jack Woodmansee & Mrs. Patty Woodmansee (keynote speaker)
- U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan ’83 & Mrs. Julie Sullivan