Norwich ties draw top military officials, classmates to ’87 grad’s promotion © Sept. 23, 2013, Norwich University Office of Communications

Maj. Gen. John Broadmeadow (left) and Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux, both Marine officers, shake hands at Descheneaux’s promotion ceremony on Aug. 24, 2013, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

photos: Lance Cpl. Sara Medina, Marine Corps Base QuanticoMaj. Gen. John Broadmeadow (left) and Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux, both Marine officers, shake hands at Descheneaux’s promotion ceremony on Aug. 24, 2013, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

On an August day in Leatherneck Gallery—the main lobby of the bustling National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.—Class of 1983 Norwich graduate Maj. Gen. John J. Broadmeadow promoted Reservist Raymond R. Descheneaux ’87 to brigadier general.

The two Marines had never met, but Broadmeadow never hesitated to accept the offer to perform the ceremony. They had shared something very special.

“I want to talk about Norwich University,” Broadmeadow told approximately 150 seated guests and museum patrons who lined the railings of the upper decks, “because I know it was Ray’s experiences there that made him who he is today.

Newly promoted Marine Maj. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux (third from left) with a group of fellow Class of 1987 alumni who attended his promotion ceremony, (left to right) Air Force Brig. Gen. Cedric George, Emil Diaz, Hemant Kishan, Benton Burgess and Naval Reserve Rear Adm. [Select] Daniel MacDonnell, who graduated a year earlier. Most were engineering students.

Newly promoted Marine Maj. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux (Reserves, third from left) with a group of fellow Class of 1987 alumni who attended his promotion ceremony, (left to right) Air Force Brig. Gen. Cedric George, Emil Diaz, Hemant Kishan, Benton Burgess and Naval Reserve Rear Adm. [Select] Daniel MacDonnell, who graduated a year earlier. Most were engineering students.

“Ray has earned his place. It’s much deeper than a promotion ... [It is about] what the Corps recognizes you are prepared to do in the future.”

At the after-party, Broadmeadow said he traveled all the way from Georgia to attend the event.

“Being a general officer in the Marine Corps is a special thing and [so it is] to promote one,” he said. “And the Norwich connection; even 30 years later it’s still pretty special.”

He was not alone in singling out the importance of ties to Norwich, the country’s oldest private military college. Among the family members and fellow Marines were Norwich President Richard W. Schneider and five of Descheneaux’s classmates from The Hill. Four of the seven alumni in attendance have now achieved the level of general or flag officer—general military terms referring to senior officers able to establish command under a flag. Some of the guests were close friends.

Emil Diaz ’87, an accountant who went into the private sector after leaving the military, traveled to the ceremony from Massachusetts to celebrate with his friend whom he had not seen in decades. The two commissioned together and spent six months at The Basic School at Quantico, Va. He is still grateful for his friend’s fortitude during challenging times.

There was a particularly tough night during training at Quantico that he and Descheneaux spent digging ditches. Diaz said he had just about had enough when the holes started to fill with water. But Descheneaux’s good humor and can-do attitude—the same attitude that had helped his friends through late nights in the engineering lab—saw them through the night and through the training.

“That’s just the kind of guy Ray is,” said Diaz.

Another ceremony guest, Navy Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell ’86, who is awaiting official promotion, was a first sergeant in the Corps' Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion. Three other classmates from the unit were Hemant Kishan of Detroit, Mich., Benton Burgess of Chelmsford, Mass., and Air Force Brig. Gen. Cedric D. George ’87, commander of Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. All shared war stories of life in the Corps of Cadets in the 1980s, and long nights in the engineering labs.

All said some version of the same thing: As soon as conversation began, it was as though they were picking up where they left off as friends nearly 30 years ago.

Descheneaux, a pilot for FedEx, lives in Tennessee with his wife and three children. His military biography includes service in the Balkans, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, East and Central Africa, where he was involved in the successful evacuation of more than 240 Americans from Rwanda’s Civil War in 1994.

During the ceremony, Descheneaux wanted to make sure he conveyed his deep gratitude for all the experiences and challenges that brought him to this day.

“I am a mosaic of you; I reflect you,” he said to his family, friends and colleagues after taking the Officer’s Oath.