Silver eagles once perched upon
the shoulders of silver-haired
officers in the Army and Air Force
from the West Point class of 1949.
All of them, of course, are
now retired or gone to another life.
They are remembered now only by
families and a few friends.
As everyone in the services knows,
the silver eagle is the insignia
of a full colonel in the Army,
Air Force, and Marine Corps.
The title, “colonel," is a derivation
of what we would call a column,
meaning a person who leads a
column of troops into battle.
Today, “colonel,” still designates
the highest grade of field command,
leading combat forces and sharing
their blood, mud, sweat, and danger.
These opportunities are unfortunately
limited to a small number of colonels,
so many pursued careers that enhanced
the performance of their service.
They found roles that could be
characterized as managerial, technical,
pioneering, of just doing what was
needed wherever they were posted.
Then the axe fell on each.
after years of faithful service,
they were cast off when the calendar
read thirty years of active duty.
Probably their separation ceremonies
were brief, and seen by few.
Still in their fifties, they faced
years of so-called retirement.
Undaunted, our colonels sought
opportunities for service in fields,
that they had never seen before,
and brought their experience with them.
They found that the principles of
duty, honor, and country that
West Point taught were applicable
to universal needs and problems.
Still serving, and never really retired,
let us sing our reminiscences of
the backbone of our class, those who
ran the full course of active duty.