Defense Secretary Robert Gates is praising graduating cadets at West Point for having the courage and patriotism to join the military in "a dangerous new century."
Gates notes that the 970 members of the class of 2009 were preparing their West Point applications in late 2004, even as American forces were battling fiercely in Fallujah in Iraq.
Gates told the cadets, "In doing so, you showed courage, commitment and patriotism of the highest order."
Almost all the graduates become second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. Most are expected to serve eventually in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Cadets who tossed their caps into the air after the ceremony at the academy's football stadium said the four years trained them well to handle dangerous deployments. Some said they had concerns; all said they were prepared.