HARLINGEN — Though they are living in complicated times, Gen. Alfred “Al” Gray Jr., the commandant of the Marine Corps during the Gulf War, reminded the Marine Military Academy Corps of Cadets that they are the hope of the nation at the General H.M. Smith Dinner this past week.
“You’re going to be the young leaders of our nation, and you better do well,” Gray said. “The responsibilities that will be placed on your shoulders upon graduation are probably, in my humble opinion, greater than any time in our history.”
Sporting a camouflage dinner jacket, Gray told the audience the young people of America are capable of being good leaders.
“I think they’re smart, they’re quick … and they ask a lot of questions — and we all know how good they are with technology,” he said. “I think in the long run they’re going to come through for us. They always have, and they always will.”
The retired general also reminded the cadets of the most important trait of a strong leader.
“Everything you’ll ever achieve will be done with people. So doesn’t it make common sense to take care of people? That’s what it’s all about. Take care of the people, and they’ll care of you,” Gray said.
After his speech, Gray was presented with the MMA Iwo Jima Leadership Award, an annual award bestowed upon an extraordinary individual who exemplifies the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment.
Gray served 41 years in the Marine Corps when he retired in 1991, with his last four as 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps. As a reminder that the primary role of every Marine is a rifleman, Gray had his official photograph taken in his camouflage utility uniform, the only commandant in Marine Corps history to have done so.
Gray was both a Korean War and Vietnam War veteran. He holds 27 awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
This distinguished leader currently serves as the chancellor of MMA.