On the day before Veterans Day, General Mark Milley ‘76, a Belmont Hill alumnus and the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, spoke to the Belmont Hill community in a riveting and powerful Long School meeting.
Dr. Melvoin started off with a brief welcome and introduction to General Milley, and Mr. Martin followed, describing his days coaching Milley on the varsity hockey team. The former student turned military commander then launched into his tale, describing his initial impressions of Belmont Hill: “I came here 44 years ago as a Third Former and freshman, and I’ll tell you, this school was a bit intimidating to me.”
Milley then dove into his praises of Belmont Hill, explaining how every student in the room is lucky to be here, and, regardless of anyone’s familial status, simply attending such a great school with such experienced and dedicated teachers places all graduates at a huge advantage, stressing that teachers are nearly as important as parents when it came to molding boys with strong character. He then examined just how much the world has changed since his days on the Hill and said that the world would likely change even more in the near future, but a Belmont Hill education and the benefits of it, including skills like critical thinking and reasoning, will always be valued.
General Milley then outlined his own story and how he landed in his current position. After graduating from Belmont Hill in 1976, he went on to Princeton, where he played hockey and participated in the ROTC program. After graduating, Milley served in numerous army positions, doing tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Panama, Haiti, and more, as a member of the Special Forces and various other military units.
General Milley then delved into the issues currently threatening our society. On top of that list was Russia and its aggressive actions in Eastern Europe, specifically the annexation of Crimea, and how the US relationship with Russia has changed over the years; tensions reached a boiling point during the Cold War, although the situation relaxed after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and only recently has Russia re-emerged as a global superpower. Other threats included ISIS, the civil war in Syria, North Korea, and the rising military strength of China as the focal point of the global economy shifted towards the pacific.
To close out the meeting, General Milley tied the discussion back to Veterans Day and the price of freedom, reading the names of Belmont Hill students who have been killed in wars throughout history, describing how freedom has a price, and these men have paid that price with their life to keep the rest of us safe.
Overall, General Milley’s chapel talk was a phenomenal, educational experience for all boys involved; it was informative on issues of current and past geopolitical relations, and reminded all Belmont Hill students how lucky we are to be at such an amazing school, and emphasized that it was people just like us who lost their lives defending this country.