Is removing 'Duty, Honor, Country' a slippery slope?

Is removing 'Duty, Honor, Country' a slippery slope?

Is removing 'Duty, Honor, Country' a slippery slope?

The U.S. Army caused an uproar last week when word leaked that a change in the corps’ mission statement was taking place.

Gen. Douglas McArthur, who served in two world wars and Korea, delivered his farewell address to West Point cadets in 1962. He prepared his speech around three words that then made up the Academy motto: Duty, Honor, Country.

"Duty, Honor and Country" were added to the United States Military Academy crest in 1890. Those words became a part of the West Point mission statement in 1998, but now Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland has written a letter to students explaining those three words were being replaced with the phrase “Army Values.”

Gilland wrote of the Army’s constant need to reassess itself which he said happened over the course of a year and a half in a review of the Point's vision, mission, and strategy. 

"As a result of this assessment," Gilland wrote, "we recommend the following mission statement to our senior Army leadership: To build, educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets to be commissioned leaders of character committed to the Army Values and ready for a lifetime of service to the Army and the nation.”

The move caught many graduates by surprise.

“Nothing had been communicated to anybody, that the current mission statement, of living the values of 'Duty, Honor and Country' was not producing the leaders we needed today for our Army and for our nation,” retired Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, president of Georgia Military College, said on Washington Watch Monday.

West Point motto remains unchanged

In his letter, Gilland pointed out the mission statement has changed on a regular basis: This new mission statement is West Point's tenth since 1925.

The phrase "Duty, Honor, Country" will remain the Academy’s official motto, at least for now. 

Bob Maginnis, a senior fellow for national security at Family Research Council and a West Point graduate, doesn't see a problem with the decision to drop the iconic school motto from its mission statement.

Maginnis, Robert (FRC) Maginnis

"The motto 'Duty, Honor, Country' defines the Military Academy and has for a long time," Maginnis tells AFN. "In fact, it's engraved in a number of the buildings, so it would be hard to remove, and it's kind of set the direction of the Military Academy for a long time."

Like the letter from Gilland, Maginnis points out the mission statement has been changed many times.

So, Maginnis is okay with the decision.

"I really don't see a problem with what's changed. It's not taking out of the Military Academy 'Duty, Honor, Country.' That's well established in history and will continue into the future," he assures.

But Caldwell disagrees. A mission statement impacts daily decisions wherever it is used, he said, and it "drives everything you do" in the armed forces. 

“When we remove those words from the West Point mission statement, it concerns me only in the sense that they were our rallying point," he said. "They reverently dictate like McArthur said, ‘what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be.' I just am having a challenge to understand what went wrong with our mission statement. Why was it not sufficient?" 

Woke abounds in the military under Biden

Under the Biden administration, woke policies have found their way into the military through Navy drag performances, paid leave and travel for abortion-related expenses, DEI and more.

Critics say these policies are the reason all branches have had recruitment challenges.

So, removal of Duty, Honor and Country from the Academy’s mission statement can come across as the beginning of a slippery slope. For many, including Caldwell, it sets off warning bells.

“I appreciate that the Superintendent was very clear, that this will still remain our motto, and I did not hear anything about them trying to remove them from our crest," he said. "But I guess, and this is the disappointment, I’d like to have the faith and trust in our leadership to do the right thing."