"This is yours. You earned it. Wear it with pride."
By Lt Gen Richard C. Harding, The Judge Advocate General / Published April 20, 2012
Washington D.C. --
Something truly remarkable happened this past Friday. In my 32 years of service, I have attended or presided over many JASOC graduations. It is, and has always been, a special ceremony, representing the culmination of several weeks of hard work and dedication. As the years have gone by, I have witnessed more and more parents, spouses, friends, and family members attend JASOC graduation. Emotions often run high on this happy day.
JASOC Class 12 Bravo graduated this past Friday. This was the first JASOC class in our history where the graduating students received their JAG badges at their graduation ceremony. Much like new pilots, who receive their wings after graduation from Undergraduate Pilot Training, this Friday's graduation ceremony for Class 12 Bravo represented both individual accomplishment by each graduate and the acceptance of their solemn obligation to maintain a legacy of excellence, service, and professionalism in our JAG Corps.
The JAG School Foundation, a foundation populated with giants of the retired JAG Corps, graciously offered to provide the JAG badges to each graduating JASOC student. At Friday's ceremony, Brig Gen (ret.) Roger Jones and Brig Gen (ret.) Ed Rodriguez took the stage with me to present the badges. After Gen Jones passed each badge to me, I turned to the graduating student, pressed the badge into his or her palm and told them, "This is yours. You earned it. Wear it with pride."
Grouped by flight with 12 students in each flight, the new graduates then stood in the well of the auditorium as members of their family, their SJAs, and faculty mentors pinned their badges to their service coat. I witnessed spouses, mothers and fathers, children, AFJAGS faculty members, and installation SJAs who traveled to participate in the ceremony, with great pride, pin the badge on the graduates. The ceremony symbolized the blending of families into one JAG Corps family. The pride on the faces of students, parents, spouses, faculty, and SJAs was obvious to all.
I am confident that the photos taken at this ceremony - of our first class of judge advocates to receive their JAG badge at JASOC graduation - will surface again many years from now at promotion and retirement ceremonies. As we congratulate JASOC Class 12 Bravo, let us not forget that even though the graduation ceremony is conducted differently now, the message applies to all across the Corps who wear the badge: This is yours. You earned it. Wear it with pride.