First Salute: Coweta County's Long family continues West Point tradition

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After his U.S. Military Academy graduation, Charles Long receives his first salute from his brother John, a "firstie," or senior, at West Point.

By REBECCA LEFTWICH
rebecca@newnan.com
Cadet Charles Anthony Long, son of Dr. James R. and Lisa Long of Newnan, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy May 26.
Long’s West Point graduation announcement reads like thousands of others, but one poignant moment set his ceremony apart from most. It wasn’t when United States Vice President Joe Biden gave his keynote speech, or the precise maneuvers of the cadets, or even the hat toss.
It was when his younger brother John – a “firstie,” or West Point senior – gave him his first salute.
“I know I have been successful because my brother John is a much better cadet than I was,” Long said. “Every lesson I learned on my way up, John has learned from and became even better. He is becoming the type of officer that America’s sons and daughters deserve, and I am very proud to call him my brother.”
Long graduated from Landmark Christian School in 2008. While at West Point, he concentrated his studies in civil engineering and was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation. He said choosing John for his first salute was not only about tradition, but also about passing the torch.
“I think it was fitting for John to give me my first salute since 358 days from now he will be a second lieutenant as well,” Long said. “We have a tradition at West Point to give your first salute a silver dollar. That silver dollar is supposed to be in memory of the person you saluted as they go off into the army. A cadet keeps the silver dollar to remember what they are in training to become.”
One of six children raised by “very patriotic parents,” Long said chose the U.S. Military Academy because it has produced some of the greatest military leaders in history.
“Many of our nation’s greatest generals went to West Point and even some of our presidents did,” said Long, whose siblings all are currently serving or have served in the military. “I knew if I went to a place like that, I would have the opportunity to become the best officer I could.”
Long put his officer training into action last week, speaking to cadets preparing to enter military academies at Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ office.
“I told them how to best prepare physically, mentally, and spiritually,” Long said. “I also warned them about the tendency to get overly concerned with their personal GPAs and goals, and I told them to constantly refocus on becoming part of a team. It is important to shape these young minds for what they are about to get themselves into. I wanted them to understand that our nation is going to rely on leaders just like them and their time at the academies should be taken very seriously.”
West Point’s course load is rigorous, with an entire core curriculum separate from major sequences that the cadets must complete within four years. For Long, that meant courses in economics, American politics, philosophy, psychology, four semesters of history, five semesters of math and other core classes in addition to his required civil engineering coursework and the physical fitness work that is part of each cadet’s daily grade.
“All of these requirements apply so much pressure that every cadet is forced to learn time management as well as the ability to work with people,” Long said. “What I learned the most during this experience is that it is not necessarily about my personal GPA, or how successful I am compared to my peers, it is more about how much I can help the struggling cadets. As an officer we are required to serve selflessly, so I think the biggest takeaway from my experience as a cadet was learning to take “me” out of everything I do.”
And that kind of service is not just for the military-minded, according to Long.
“I do not think serving in the military is necessarily an important thing for every single person in the United States,” he said. “However, I do think serving in some capacity should be a part of every person’s mindset.”
But while mandatory enlistment is not a part of Long’s personal agenda, he said, serving in the military is a way to actively influence the bigger picture.
“I am not an advocate of required military service for every single individual,” Long said. “However, if you are an able-bodied person who has the smallest desire to do something for more than yourself, I believe serving in the military is one of the best options for you. Not every person is called to serve in a combat capacity, but I do believe the most successful people are those who are less concerned with themselves and more concerned serving the advancement of something greater, especially the USA.”
After a few weeks of leave, Long will head to Fort Sill, Okla., for five months of field artillery officer training and then intends to apply for Ranger School at Fort Benning. If accepted, Long faces an intense 60 days of three-phase Ranger training, after which he will be attached to the 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. Although the specifics of his job there have yet to be determined, Long said he hopes to become a Fires Support Officer or a platoon leader.
“I have a desire to lead soldiers, and I want to be a part of this war we are currently in,” he said. “I know we are supposed to be out of Afghanistan by 2014 (but) I think we all know there are still a lot of very bad men out there that want to destroy our free way of life here in the United States.”

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