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The mission of the Hamilton Society is to advocate for academic engagement of the military as a civic institution, promote national service among Columbia University students, and to foster the professional development of cadets and candidates. 


The following testimonials are an effort to communicate the experiences of fellow Columbians who made the decision to proudly serve their country. They demonstrate that the opportunities and challenges found in military service reflect and build upon the values of the academic community. 

Erik Swabb, 1LT, INF, USMC

Columbia College 2002 

       The Marine Corps provided incredible leadership experience, immense responsibility, once-in-a-life opportunities, and exposure to different types of people. As a young officer, the entire time in the military consists of leadership training, but one probably receives close to a year of formal schooling. A new lieutenant is constantly learning new ways of motivating and challenging people. As for responsibility, I would challenge anyone to name an occupation where a 22-year old could be in charge of up to 40 lives, millions of dollars of equipment, and preparing people for an incredibly stressful job. It is no coincidence that so many top executives served in the military. I served as an infantry officer, which as the most physically challenging specialty in the military means that no student should worry about not being an athlete as long as he or she is motivated enough to train. In Iraq, I had the experience of a lifetime: being a part of history (the battle of Fallujah in Nov ’04) and making history (the first elections in Iraq in Jan ’05). I think of my military service as both a foundation for the rest of my life and a defining accomplishment.

Emily Shin, 2LT, MS, USA

Columbia College 2004 

       I spent the summer of 2003 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, at Army Basic Combat Training because I am a flutist in the NY National Guard Band.  I expected it to be a survival exercise, but it turned out to be an opportunity to learn how to work with, get along with, love, and lead many different kinds of people.  I had moments of panic and moments where I wondered why I had gotten myself into such a predicament, but as the nine weeks progressed, I realized that the lessons in respect, conformity, and humility were actually lessons about perseverance, teamwork, gratitude, and service.  The experience showed me that I could get through the intensity of medical training and the demands of the practice.

      The army definition of selfless service is “To put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.”  In the same way, being a physician is about service, about putting the patient’s needs in high esteem, and I am thankful I joined the armed forces if only to experience this lesson. 

Sean L. Wilkes, 2LT, MS, USA

Columbia College 2006 

       My participation in the Reserve Officer Training Corps granted me the opportunity to do something that is more than just an occupation, something that I, as many warriors have before me, look upon as an honor and a privilege: the chance to lead our nation's servicemen and women as a military officer. This is your military.  Recall that our constitution and the political and moral philosophy upon which it is grounded was forged and remunerated by Columbians. That among the great officers who fought for these rights and civil liberties we today enjoy were the likes of John Jay, Governor Morris, and a certain Army Colonel by the name of Hamilton. 

       I entreat you to take up the torch of leadership and bring to our armed forces the values, knowledge, and understanding that Columbia has imparted to you. Remember well the words of Lt. Gen. Sir William E. Butler, "The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards."



Columbia College 1951 

      The camaraderie, the long term friendships based on shared hardships, the knowledge that a network for professional or emergency reasons was, and is, always there and can only be achieved in the service of one’s country.

      Now in this new millennium, we are facing new threats to family and nation. The challenges and the opportunities are immense.  Columbians should be there to incorporate the highest principles and standards into the Government and the military service. We should strive to make every effort to ensure the understanding that must exist between the military and the society that they serve and protect.

      I wish that I could embrace those opportunities --and rewards-- again!

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