Vice President Pence told West Point’s most diverse graduating class in history that they will go to war for America at some point in their life.
Pence addressed the U.S. Military Academy’s 2019 graduating class of more than 980 cadets at the institution’s 221st commencement on Saturday morning in West Point, N.Y.
“It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,” the vice president told the graduates. “You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.”
“Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”
“And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win,” he said. “The American people expect nothing less.“
The graduating class, their families and other attendees also heard Pence say, "as you accept the mantle of leadership I promise you, your commander in chief will always have your back. President Donald Trump is the best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have."
The cadets leave West Point as U.S. Army second lieutenants.
During his remarks, Pence noted that Trump has proposed a $750 billion defense budget for 2020 and said the United States "is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world."
The 2019 cadets included 223 women, 34 of whom are black. Both totals are all-time highs since the first female cadets graduated in 1980. The academy graduated its 5,000th woman Saturday.
The 110 African Americans who graduated were double the number from 2013. There were also 88 Hispanics who graduated.
West Point held other events leading up to the commencement, including a wreath-laying on Tuesday featuring the academy’s oldest living graduate, retired Col. Doniphan Carter, class of 1944 and a graduation parade on Friday, the Westchester Journal News reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.