[EDITOR'S NOTE: This speech was delivered by Captain Scott Pace's father, Patrick Pace, at the graduation exercises for USMA Cadet Field Training at Camp Buckner, West Point, NY on July 28, 2018. A graduate of Brawley Union High School, Capt. Pace died serving our country in battle in Afghanistan.]
This is really a tremendous honor for my wife and me and our family to be with you today. I am glad to be able to share a few thoughts this morning. More than anything, we feel a debt of gratitude. We thank Superintendent Williams, Commandant Gilland, and Command Sergeant Major. Love for all you have to done to host us. We appreciate Lieutenant Colonel Salvador, Major LaFitte, Sergeant Perrier, Cadet Captain Bindon, Cadet Sroka and Cadet Trainor, who facilitated our getting here and graciously welcomed us. And above all, we are grateful to the Class of 2021 and the Camp Buckner Cadre for honoring and remembering our son and brother, Scott Pace. We know he would be very humbled and frankly would probably squirm a little, not feeling deserving of your tribute and recognition. We thank you for your many kindnesses. This is a truly a day our family will always remember.
As I have watched you cadets this morning, I am struck by how much you all remind me of Scott. Maybe it’s the uniforms or the haircuts, but you seem to have a lot in common. I was just wondering if there is anyone here in Company D-3. How about A-3? Is there anybody on the Army basketball team? How about sprint football? Any team handball players? Any members of the West Point Branch? Does anyone speak Spanish with an Argentine accent? Is there anyone going to study nuke and endure the torture in the House of PANE? Does anyone want to be an Army Aviator?
If any of these apply to you, Scott would have been your buddy. Actually with his big smile, Scott would have been a friend to each of you. He was proud to be a West Pointer, a member of the Long Gray Line. He was deeply gratified with the lessons of leadership he learned and the friendships he forged here at the Academy.
After he tossed his hat with the Class of 2005, Scott proceeded to Fort Rucker and learned to fly helicopters; more specifically, he flew the OH-58 Kiowa. He served two deployments in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In late 2010, he took command of an Air Cavalry Troop affiliated with the 82nd Airborne. He and his troop deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. They were based at the Bagram Airport and seemed to fly a lot of missions. I remember those days, as Scott seemed ever busy with the pressure of command, leading his Troopers and executing missions. A General later spoke about him. After reviewing his service records, the General observed that Scott always seemed to take the toughest jobs himself.
And so it was on June 6th, a little over six years ago. That day Scott’s co-pilot was 1st Lieutenant Matthew Fazzari, a brand new arrival… a mere three weeks out of flight school. They were about to finish flying patrol for the day when they were hurriedly dispatched to assist an infantry unit under ambush and taking casualties. Despite being low on fuel, Scott and Mat flew the tail position and laid down suppressive gunfire. On the third pass, enemy small arms fire crippled their helicopter leaving it without power.
Scott and Mat became whom the soldiers call “Fallen Angels,” and while we know that Scott did fall to the earth, we also know that angels were there to lift him up -- because of his sacrifice -- because of his service above self... Because of what he did, the soldiers on the ground were able to escape, to come home and to embrace their loved ones again.
Scott lived and died heroically. We hope as a family, we helped instill in him those virtues he exhibited of service, sacrifice and love for others. We know he was taught those and other traits here at West Point, especially as they pertain to leadership and undergird a West Pointer’s devotion to Duty, Honor, Country.
Fortunately, very few are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. Yet it is curious that there always seems to be some sacrifice which accompanies service. It sounds like a formula for every worthy accomplishment: you give up something to gain something else, something better. In the very near future, when you leave this place to go forth to serve, you will gain so much. You will be actively engaged in good causes. You will be directly involved in the significant events and challenges of your day. What a privilege and opportunity is yours!
As you go out on your adventures, remember that your family and friends abide at home. We love you, we care for you, we pray for you. We worry about you! So if you will indulge me, let me speak to you for a moment as everybody’s dad. I am going to try to fill those shoes, and my message is simple: PLEASE…PLEASE… WRITE HOME! We do not expect or want you to write us top secret intel or state secrets. We want to know that you are all right; we want to know what and how you are doing. You are going to have some unique and marvelous experiences. Share them! You will find that your experiences multiply through the years until they become the product of your life. Regrettably, you will also find that as life ebbs, the memories of those experiences fade. You can save those experiences forever in a letter or an email. A text does not count.
For obvious reasons, we treasure everything that Scott ever wrote us. Some of his letters were chatty and informative; some reflective, even philosophical; some were serious; some a bit sad. But mostly, they were funny as he shared the follies of his Army life. Periodically, he would send his family and friends, what I guess you would call a blog. He called it Adventures in Scottilandia.
I remember one such installment during his time in Iraq. He wrote about his living quarters, and his rodent roommates. They became so well-acquainted that he gave each one of them a name. He shared with us copies of the Wanted Posters he hung up in the barracks offering a reward to anyone bringing an errant rat or trespassing mouse to justice. I understand that he paid lots of rewards. And I always thought Scott was a good roommate.
So in summary, don’t get too busy to write home.
As I conclude my remarks, let me add my congratulations to the graduates of Cadet Field Training and to the Cadre. And once again, let me thank you all for inviting us, for making us feel so welcome and for letting us be a part of these exercises. We are so moved and grateful that you remember our son, Captain Scott Pace. We are honored to be here; this is a day our family will cherish forever. To you cadets, please know that as for my family and me, we appreciate all you have done, all you are doing and all you will do. You are in our thoughts and prayers. We wish you Godspeed. So go Class of 2021! You go “until the battle's won!” And Go Army!