"A herald is one who is called out to proclaim, to go before, and in this case, declare the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Commissioner Lawrence R. Moretz, territorial commander. "How wonderful it is tonight, to see these young men and women who have given themselves in covenant to God."
Major Stephen Banfield, training principal of the School for Officer Training (SFOT), shared with the audience at Hershey Lodge the challenges that the 38 cadets had overcome: many hours study in Bible and doctrine, personal ministry, business administration, Army policy, and time spent in field training.
Lt. Colonel Larry Bosh, chief secretary and chair of the SFOT's The Academic Oversight Advisory Council (a support network), introduced Dr. Daniel Chamberlain, former president of Houghton College and a distinguished council member.
Chamberlain, who holds a doctorate in education, listed the improvements to the campus in personnel and facilities and said, "All of these are tools to help you concentrate on the tasks you are here to master."
Cadets receive awards
Cadet Keith Maynor received the Bible Knowledge Achievement Award, given to the cadet who has shown the most improvement from the beginning of the training period to the completion of the study program.
Maynor also received the Doctrine Knowledge Award, given to the cadet who scored the highest grade on the post-doctrine test.
Maynor was one of three cadets who received the Doctrine Knowledge Achievement Award for the most improvement since the beginning of training. Cadets Erika Calhoun and Jason Knaggs also received that honor.
Cadet Bayode Agbaje earned the highest grade on the post-standardized Bible knowledge test.
Cadet Luis Merced was salutatorian, with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.97. Cadet Amanda Krueger, who had a GPA of 3.98, was valedictorian.
In her valedictory address, Krueger thanked the SFOT staff and her sessionmates, calling them "a blessing" when she suddenly lost her mom to cancer. "It was only through the support of these men and women sitting behind me that I got through that difficult time. They loved me, supported me, and prayed for me in my darkest hour," she said.
General 'be laurels' cadets
General Shaw Clifton said, "Heralds of the Good News, we are proud of you, we thank God for you, and this is an evening where we want to honor you." He continued, "Tonight we are going to 'be-laurel' you." He was alluding to ancient times when heroes received laurel wreaths as crowns of honor or victory.
However, quoting lyrics from a song, the General said, "My choicest laurels are bedewed with tears." He was suggesting that in 20 years, the cadets would have both disappointments as well as victories to share.
The General passionately reminded the cadets that their call had come from God, not from themselves. They will be expected to have their wits about them and keep their perspectives straight, he said, but God will not be looking for brilliance from them but for faithfulness and humility.
In closing, General Clifton said that if he had a chance to do it all over again [choose to be an officer], he would. With voice almost breaking, he continued, "But I would do it better, much better!"