WEST POINT, N.Y. - Six years ago, U.S. Army Captain Scott P. Pace was on a rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2011. He was in command of the helicopter that was on patrol when he and his copilot were dispatched to save soldiers who were under fire. On the third pass, the helicopter was hit by gunfire and went down in the desert, and sadly, Captain Pace died. However, thanks to Pace's efforts and sacrifice, all of the soldiers he was sent to save were able to escape alive.
In the spring earlier this year, Capt. Pace's parents, Patrick and Kathy Pace, received a letter from the Cadet Captain of West Point Military Academy where their son attended and graduated from.
The Cadre, or upperclassmen, asked the Paces for permission to name this year’s Cadet Field Training II Promotion ceremony after their son to honor him for his sacrifice. They also extended an invitation to the family to be present and to speak during the ceremony.
When a cadet first arrives at West Point, he or she goes through basic training called “Beast Barracks," and then the academic year follows. During the summer following their freshman year, cadets participate in Cadet Field Training.
For several weeks, they live at Camp Buckner, which is located in the woods outside of the Academy. The training is conducted by the Cadre and regular Army personnel. At the end of the training the now “yearlings” or Young Upper Classmen (also called YUKs, according to Pace) go through a promotion ceremony.
This was the ceremony the Pace family was invited to speak at. Patrick Pace was contacted by the Cadre asking permission to name this year’s CFT after Captain Pace. According to Pace, each year the Cadre chooses to dedicate the ceremony to a person who was lost in combat and this year, they picked Captain Pace.
Pace and his wife, their son, Rick Pace (who also attended West Point) and daughter-in-law, and their daughter and son-in-law made the trip to New York to be there for the ceremony on July 28, 2018.
Pace was asked to give a speech at the graduation ceremony. He read words of encouragement, of pride, and congratulations to the newly-promoted cadets. He spoke of his son and the sacrifices he made, but also of the accomplishments that would not have been possible had he not gone through exactly what the cadets had just finished.
“It was a very unique experience for us,” said Pace. “We were very touched by the whole thing.”
They were present along with the West Point Superintendent, Commandant, and others. There was also a veteran of the Normandy invasion attending who presented awards during the ceremony.
The Paces presented the Captain Scott Pace award to the captain of the West Point handball team.
After the ceremony, the Cadre and commanders wanted to show the Pace family around Camp Buckner properly. They were able to tour the grounds and see where their sons had made their home during their military training.
While there, the Pace family stayed at the Distinguished Guests House, also known as the Beat Navy House, a building Pace described as coming from another era, but very comfortable.
The next day, the Pace family were treated to a private tour of the academy by the West Point historian, retired LTC and army aviator, Sherman Fleek. He showed the family Cullum Hall, a wing of the academy dedicated to the officers and graduates of West Point.
Pace said a part of Cullum Hall has recently been dedicated to the memories of WP grads who died while on active duty during times of war. Each name is on a bronze plaque affixed to the walls, and Fleek showed them Captain Pace’s name plate where his parents noted it was next to friends of the late captain.
Fleek later gave the family private tour of some of the academy locations that are normally not part of designated tours. Even Rick Pace, the family’s younger son, stated he was shown places he’d never seen when he attended the academy.
A memory Pace shared was what happened the morning after the ceremony when the family was awoken by the sounds of a marching cadence. They looked out and could see the freshmen marching out to Camp Buckner for their own CFT. Meanwhile, the YUKs ran by in the opposite direction to greet their families on their way out for leave.
Both Patrick and Kathy Pace said the visit was a unique and unforgettable experience.