President Maj. Gen. John Grinalds recognized 39 cadets called
up to serve in the nation's military Tuesday, the college mess
hall exploded in rowdy applause, whoops, yelps and banging silverware.
More than a dozen
cadets came forward to be honored by fellow students, faculty
and cafeteria workers.
"These young men standing
before you know not what comes," Grinalds said. "They have been
called to duty and, God willing, we will welcome them home when
they are done."
Of the 1,900 cadets
in the corps, more than 120 are affiliated with a reserve or
National Guard. Two cadets have been deployed. Another group,
most national guardsmen, got their orders this week.
The college has little
information about where the cadets will go or when they will
return. Some guardsmen will work locally, filling in spots left
by active military sent overseas. Others may be activated and
shipped closer to the fighting.
Clad in battle dress
fatigues, Christian McElroy, 24, said goodbye to his comrades
in Kilo Company Tuesday. His bags were already packed. His next
stop was the armory in Mount Pleasant to await orders.
"I got into the National
Guard for a reason. I had a calling to serve my country ...
and I've got God behind me," said the Chesapeake, Va., senior.
McElroy said he was
nervous, anxious and excited. Their only regret: "We are supposed
to get our rings Friday."
McElroy and his fellow
seniors have worked for four years to wear the Citadel ring
- an honor second only to graduation, Regimental Commander Bobby
"It is a symbol of
the hardships you go through at school and the bond that is
formed here," Cox, 21, said of the ring. "It is a symbol of
The Citadel family."
The Class of 1944
was the only one in the school's history to received their rings
as juniors. School leaders knew the students would be fighting
World War II by the following October. The attacks on America
have meant increased interest in the armed forces among cadets,
Cox said. "It makes the events of the world that much more real.
We see our friends leaving, and we all want to go together."
Grinalds, a retired
Marine, remembers the call to war. He served in the Mediterranean,
the Panama Canal Zone, Japan and Belgium, and he did two tours
of duty in Vietnam.
"I know exactly what
these young men feel," he said. "It is exciting. There is some
trepidation. There is always the element of danger. It is a
mixture of emotions."
Grinalds also knows
how a father feels when his children enter a war - two of Grinalds'
sons served in combat. "I'm as concerned about (the cadets)
as I am my own children. It is an uncomfortable feeling to send
your children to war," he said.
College Chaplain Col.
David Golden said many students have little time to think about
their fears. That will come later as they face the unknown.
"You have to learn to listen and pray with them as they prepare
to leave," he said.
Cox also is working
inside the corps to keep student morale high. That includes
looking after a small group of Muslim students on campus. "We
march with them. We go to class with them. Now we understand
them more," Cox said. "It has brought us all together."
Leaders promised to
make the departure and return easy for students. School policy
allows cadets who report for active duty to withdraw from class
and receive a full tuition refund and a pro-rated fee refund.
Cadets can also take
an incomplete in their courses and resume studies when they