Freshman Nathaniel DeFrees, right, talks with Dr. Charles Krulak, BSC president, after he addressed HHS students on Monday afternoon. | Clif Knight
Freshman Nathaniel DeFrees, right, talks with Dr. Charles Krulak, BSC president, after he addressed HHS students on Monday afternoon. | Clif Knight

Archived Story

College president offers HHS students good advice

Published 4:31pm Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You could hear a pin drop in Hartselle High School Auditorium on Monday while Dr. Charles Krulak, president of Birmingham-Southern College breathed real-life experiences into the subject of leadership and character.

The 35-year Marine Corps veteran prefaced the theme of his talk by telling a firsthand story from his Vietnam war experience.

Leading 150 Marines on his first combat mission in 1966, then Lt. Krulak witnessed a death-defying example of valor under gunfire that changed his life.

After being dropped by helicopters into a rice patty, the detachment found cover in a dry ditch and immediately fell under heavy gunfire from the Viet Cong. One squad was under direct attack of machine gun fire. After three marines were killed and four others seriously injured, a lance corporal leaped from the ditch and began running and firing his weapon at the machine gun position. By drawing enemy fire, the corporal gave a second squad time to take a flank position and begin attacking the enemy. Although a bullet knocked down the corporal, he got up and joined his comrades in attacking the machine gun position. When the battle was over his body, riddled with bullets was lying on top of the machine gun,

Seven months later, the fallen marine was posthumously honored as the recipient of the nation’s second highest metal for valor in combat. The award was accepted by his widow and young son, who was born while he was fighting for his country.

“This Marine was an African American from Mississippi,” Krulak said. “He gave his life for his country even though he couldn’t be served in a restaurant back home.”

“I tell you this because at that time my life was changed, he added.

“I remembered how important young people like you are to your community, state and nation and I decided I’d do everything in my power to help you. That’s why I came to Alabama to be president of a college.

“When I am asked what can I do to be successful?, “I tell my students you’ve got to be a man or woman of character.

“You have to be selfless -care more for other people more than your own self, have moral courage – willing to do the right thing at the right time when no one else is watching, and have integrity – It’s the only thing you own and nobody can take it away from you”

“You are smart, You have a good school with a good reputation. You have god-given gifts.

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when our footprints are on the moon. Don’t let anyone limit you. Don’t let anyone define you. There are people in this auditorium who can find a cure for cancer or invent a follow-up to Facebook.”

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