Barry McNamara  |   Published May 14, 2021

New Second Lieutenants

Brock Crippen, Brandon Graeff commissioned as Army officers during May 14 ceremony in Veterans Memorial Great Room.

NEW OFFICERS: Brandon Graeff (left) and Brock Crippen, who will graduate from Monmouth on Sunday,... NEW OFFICERS: Brandon Graeff (left) and Brock Crippen, who will graduate from Monmouth on Sunday, were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army during a Friday ceremony on campus.MONMOUTH, Ill. – At the close of her remarks at Monmouth College Friday morning, Lt. Col. Joan Sommers formally introduced what she called “the United States Army’s newest second lieutenants” – 2021 Monmouth graduates Brock Crippen of East Peoria, Illinois, and Brandon Graeff of Murphysboro, Illinois.

The commissioning ceremony for Crippen and Graeff was the first one in a decade for a Monmouth student who had completed the Army ROTC program. Held in the Veterans Memorial Great Room on the main floor of the College’s Center for Science and Business, the ceremony featured traditions such as the pinning of gold bars and the “Silver Dollar Salute.”

A political science major, Crippen will be an ordnance corps officer. Graeff, who studied business and economics, will be an infantry officer. Both are awaiting their initial assignment.

“This was everything I thought it would be,” said Crippen, who transferred to Monmouth at the start of his sophomore year. “The people I’ve met, the connections I’ve made. It makes me really excited to take the next step.”

Graeff agreed.

“All the opportunities that came with it, the experiences, the people I’ve met and the places I was able to go – it’s really tied a bow on my college career.” Brandon Graeff

“All the opportunities that came with it, the experiences, the people I’ve met and the places I was able to go – it’s really tied a bow on my college career,” he said. “I came here playing football, and the Army just fit into that personality type. It’s been everything I wanted it to be. It’s been a perfect fit for me – the atmosphere, the competitiveness, the drive that everybody else has.”

The second lieutenants made news in the program two years ago after attending basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky. They both received ROTC national scholarships, which covered their tuition costs at Monmouth.

“They had no military experience, but they were both individually recognized,” said Sommers of the members of the Leatherneck Battalion at Western Illinois University in Macomb. “I was intrigued and impressed.”

The duo have continued to impress Sommers with their “grit and resiliency,” staying strong in the program despite their physical distance from Macomb, their full college schedules and the obstacles put in place by the pandemic.

“I’ve maintained Dean’s List, so I’ve been very proud of that. I didn’t let my academics slip. It’s been very hectic, but it’s been the most rewarding three years of my life.” Brock Crippen

“My professors were all super supportive, working around my schedule,” said Crippen. “I started off playing basketball, and then I moved into just doing res life as an RA and a head resident, but it still required a lot of work and a lot of time management. I’ve maintained Dean’s List, so I’ve been very proud of that. I didn’t let my academics slip. It’s been very hectic, but it’s been the most rewarding three years of my life.”

Said Graeff: “On a day like today, you really think about all the work it took to get here. It’s a humbling experience, and it’s well worth the sacrifices that were made.”

Although military science classes and training were held at WIU, Crippen said, “I’m a Scot at heart. It might be through Western, but Monmouth played a part all the way.”

A revered military tradition dating back to the 19th century, the “Silver Dollar Salute” is a coin presentation to a fellow enlisted member, given as a token of appreciation for their guidance and mentoring. Graeff presented a silver dollar to his grandfather, while Crippen chose his father.

The coin recipient will then follow the military career of the newly commissioned officer. In the event the officer should reach the rank of general, the enlisted service member will give the silver dollar back to symbolize completion of the cycle of leadership.

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