Northern Virginia Daily News - Monday, June 7, 2004
MMA Grads Told To Practice  What They Learned

By Garren Shipley

Daily staff photo by Alan Lehman 
MMA class valedictorian Steven Cragg pauses during his address and hands his sword to his father, Edward Cragg, of Arlington, during the academy's graduation exercises in Woodstock on Saturday 
"Class of 2004, dismissed"

With those words, a cheer from the graduating cadets and rain of hats, Massanutten Military Academy's 36 graduating seniors took their last order as high school students Saturday's ceremony in the Woodstock institution's gymnasium proceeded with all the discipline and liveliness of a drill on the parade grounds.

During his salutatory address, Cadet Lt. Col. Steven Reis, from Naples Fla, reminded his classmates of what they had accomplished. Reis, who was the battalion commander for the past school year, contemplated the benefits of attending Massanutten. "There are other seniors across the country who didn't do it the way we did it," said Reis. But in the end, the ability to say they made it through the rigors of high school academics plus military training - symbolized by having Massanutten Military Academy on their diplomas - made all the sacrifice worth it, he said

But it was this year's valedictorian, Cadet Capt. Steven Cragg, of Arlington who struck the most emotional chord of the event. With tear-filled eyes and barely maintaining his composure, Cragg called his father to the podium, where he presented him with his uniform sword."You are a better man than I," Cragg said, thanking him for his guidance and presenting the saber to its new owner. 

Cragg also exhorted his classmates and the crowd to "spend some time in your life in service to the nation" That doesn't necessarily call for military service, he said. Working as a fire fighter, a police officer - "even a tour guide" - will carry on the example of the men who, 60 years before, were huddled in ships and planes, waiting for the command to hit the beaches of Normandy. All of them knew they'd be running headlong into the Atlantic Wall, with its machine guns, artillery and landmines, but they went anyway. "They did that for us," Cragg said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan, now the president of Georgia Military Academy, took themes from both cadets and called on them to continue to practice the qualities they had been taught while at the school. Boylan, a former commander of the 10th Mountain Division, told cadets that the intellect must be honed while it is not needed.Just like physical strength, one must be able to practice it in the good times so that one may be sure of its readiness in the bad times.Knowledge, he said, is not an end unto itself, but a path to self-discovery and wisdom."The questions you formulate provide more insight than the responses your going to receive," he said. 

Though it was largely made up of cadets from outside of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, five graduates were local, including James Wayne Campbell of Quicksburg, Frederick William Huffman of Bayse, Robert Karl Kern of Berryville, James Paul Kurtz of Edinburg, and John Martin Kurtz of Edinburg.