Invoking the memory of the late Marine veteran and Dartmouth President Emeritus James Wright, CNN Anchor Jake Tapper ’91 commended three seniors for their service at their military commissioning ceremony on Saturday.
“It’s not just me,” Tapper, a Dartmouth trustee, told the three ROTC students who were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. “I am a representative of Dartmouth College, the trustees, but also the entire community, recognizing your commitment, your courage, your resolve, and your selflessness.”
The three seniors who received their commissions during the ceremony at Loew Auditorium were:
- John Barksdale ’23, an economics major, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. He will enter active duty as a U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer with the 41st Field Artillery Brigade in Grafenwöhr, Germany after completing Field Artillery Basic Leader Training in Fort Sill, Okla.
- Zahni Khin ’23, a geography and anthropology double major, who is from Lorton, Va. He will be joining the 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion in Fredericksburg, Va., while working full time in the consulting field for Quadrant Strategies in Washington, D.C.
- Karina Mitchell ’23, a biomedical engineering major with minors in psychology and sociology, who grew up in Charlotte, N.C. She will commission into the U.S. Army Reserve assigned to the 250th Quartermaster Company. While serving, she will be studying for a master’s in bioengineering at UCLA and plans to continue on to medical school.
Tapper said Wright, who died in October at 83, was a fierce advocate for veterans’ health and education and personally welcomed every student veteran to the Dartmouth campus.
Wright served as Dartmouth’s 16th president from 1998 to 2009 and attended the Dartmouth commissioning every year to salute the new officers from the days of his presidency until the year before his death.
Calling Wright a mentor, Tapper said, “only later in life did I realize that Jim taught me more than just history. He taught me a reverence for service. He taught me empathy for veterans and their needs, he taught me a certain fellowship, and I hope you all exemplify what he stood for.”
Tapper said one of the journalistic efforts he is most proud of is his 2012 book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, a history of Combat Outpost Keating, the site of the Afghan War’s deadliest battles told through firsthand accounts by soldiers, families, and commanders.
The graduates join the ranks of servicemembers who have served with valor from the nation’s founding by putting their country and their fellow soldiers before themselves, “and I know that you three will be exemplifying that because you already are,” Tapper said.
Professor of Government Lisa Baldez welcomed the cadets at the start of the ceremony, noting that her two sons are both Dartmouth graduates and her eldest, Joe Carey ’15, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, received his officer commission during Dartmouth graduation weekend eight years ago.
And speaking as “a Marine mom,” Baldez lifted up the families of the new Army officers and the graduates who have committed to serve their country.
“To the families here today, I thank you for trusting us with your children for the past four years. Thank you for supporting them as they prepare to take on the responsibility of serving our country. I’m honored to welcome you into the family of Dartmouth military families,” Baldez said.
“To the cadets, I thank you for the impact that you’ve had on Dartmouth. Thank you for your commitment to leading your soldiers and to protecting the nation. I welcome you into the long and proud history of Dartmouth graduates who have served in the United States military.”
Army Capt. Joshua Kresowaty, Military Science Instructor affiliated with the Dartmouth ROTC program, called on the families and friends to stand with their cadet before calling “attention to orders” and invited them to pin the bars—the insignia of their new rank—on the shoulders of the new second lieutenants.
Kresowaty then administered the commissioning oath to 2nd Lt. John Barksdale. Kresowaty then invited retired Army Capt. Thein Khin to administer the oath to his son, 2nd Lt. Zahni Khin, and Army Brig. Gen. Louis Mitchell to administer the oath to his daughter, 2nd Lt. Karina Mitchell, who sealed her oath with a hug.
The new officers then received their first salute from an enlisted soldier, acknowledging the respect due their new rank. For more than 200 years, the new officers have responded by shaking the hand and passing a silver dollar to the person who saluted them. Barksdale and Khin received their first salute from Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Carlson, part of the ROTC cadre. Mitchell received her first salute from retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Leslie Brown, her uncle.
The audience of students, family, friends, faculty, trustees, and administrators stood for the singing of The Army Goes Rolling Along at the close of the proceedings. As the official Army song concluded, the graduates and officers greeted their guests and joined in hugs and photos.
The Dartmouth Class of 2023 Commissioned Officers
John Barksdale ’23—Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army
A four-year national scholarship recipient, Barksdale has been a Cadet at Dartmouth since his freshman year. He will commission as an active duty Field Artillery Officer and join the 41st Field Artillery Brigade in Grafenwöhr, Germany after completing Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course in Fort Sill, Okla. On campus, Barksdale was the president of Theta Delta Chi fraternity, a researcher with the Rockefeller Center, and a member of the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club and Sphinx Senior Society.
Zahni Khin ’23—Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Khin graduated from James W. Robinson Jr. Secondary School in 2019. Receiving a four-year national scholarship in high school, Khin has been a member of Dartmouth Army ROTC for the entirety of his time in college. Khin will be joining the 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion in Fredericksburg, Va. while working full time in the consulting field for Quadrant Strategies in Washington, D.C. On campus, Khin was president and rush chairman of Beta Alpha Omega Fraternity, a volunteer for the DREAM program, guitarist in a student band, and member of the Sphinx Senior Society.
Karina Mitchell ’23—Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Mitchell graduated high school from the Charlotte Engineering Early College. Accepting a four-year national scholarship, she continued to Dartmouth where she has been a member of the ROTC program and Varsity women’s basketball team for four years, as well as an undergraduate researcher in the Hixon RegenD Lab. Mitchell will graduate with a B.A in biomedical engineering with minors in psychology and sociology. She will commission into the California U.S. Army Reserve where she has been assigned to the 250th Quartermaster Company. While serving she will be obtaining a master’s degree in bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, with plans to continue on to medical school.