“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
United States Air Force Lt. Jason Torf ’09 used that quote from Gen. George S. Patton to show those gathered at the Gold Star Ceremony on Memorial Day the importance of honoring those who have gone before us and to live up to the standards they have set.
But Torf admitted it took him some time to understand the impact of Patton’s words. The military part of Culver Military Academy really didn’t matter to him when he decided to leave southern California and come to school here. He wanted to play hockey and get a good education. The military part, “I would just deal with it.”
Likewise, when he was deciding on which college to attend, he turned down the Air Force Academy “two to three times” before he finally agreed to visit the Colorado Springs campus.
“I was smitten with the campus,” he said. The architecture, the chapel, the Rockies were all too beautiful to pass up. He figured he would, again, “just deal with” the military aspect while getting a great education and playing hockey.
“But that doesn’t fly at the Air Force Academy,” he smiled.
One thing that bothered him, though, was people coming up and thanking him for his service. He was not deserving of the accolades, especially while he was still at the academy. But meeting a Vietnam veteran turned his attitude around.
Each group of cadets is assigned a retired colonel as a mentor. When his group met a Vietnam veteran, the colonel shook the man’s hand and thanked him for his service. The veteran began to cry. “Not one person” had ever thanked him since he had come home, Torf explained. That veteran had never received “what I was taking for granted.”
That is when the colonel told the cadets when someone thanks them for their service, they should “accept it for those who have gone before you.” Accepting that thanks and living up to those standards “is an awesome responsibility.”
And Torf challenged the students to be “good stewards” of Culver’s rich military history, traditions, and ideals. “People have bled and died so institutions like this can exist. Be incredibly proud of your journey and your accomplishments at Culver.”
And, as an alum, Torf said he would take the opportunity to deliver a mini-commencement speech. He told the graduating seniors and first-classmen that Culver has prepared them for the challenges coming forward, and every student should “carry this place with pride.”