Blessed and honored: Samoan dad salutes his son at West Point


Photo Credit: 
Denise Matthews
Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Tobin salutes his son and namesake, newly commissioned U.S. Army Second Lt. Charles Michael Tobin, Jr., May 28, 2014 at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York.

(WEST POINT, New York)—In his most defining moment as a father and Army soldier of 30 years, Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Tobin saluted his newly commissioned second lieutenant son in West Point, New York when the historic U. S. Military Academy graduated its class of 2014.

It was a frigid, drizzly morning May 28, 2014.

“It was the highest honor of my life and military career to attend West Point’s graduation,” CSM Tobin wrote in a tribute penned for the occasion. “It was even more special to attend the event and render my son’s first salute as he prepared to join the ranks as a Second Lieutenant…I could not be more proud of him. Life couldn’t get much better than this.”

From around the world – including Hawai’i and American Samoa – hundreds of West Point Alumni, decorated war heroes, service men and women and their families convened at Michie Stadium where President Barack Obama delivered the keynote speech.

The Academy’s role in the nation’s history dates back more than 200 years, to the Revolutionary War when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River, says General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America.

Tobin, an expert in strategic and tactical operations, was responsible for the retrograde of all equipment out of Afghanistan as Commander of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) at Fort Bragg, N.C., a post he held for 23 months. In February 2014, Tobin left the 1st TSC and in May, he was installed as Commander of the 8th TSC at Fort Shafter, Hawai’i where the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) is headquartered.

Charles Michael Tobin, Jr., 21, an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful young man, called CJ by family and friends – was among the 1,064 cadets who raised their right hands for the commissioning oath. An Academic Star awardee and graduate of South View High School in Hope Mills, N.C., CJ, 6’3”, also played football at West Point.

Family members, including CJ’s mother Crystal Voiles, sister Kayla Tobin-Dwyer, nephew AJ Dwyer, uncle Carl Tobin, relatives and friends came from Germany, Hawai’i, North Carolina and New York City for his graduation.

CSM Tobin says he never dreamed his son would have such a sense of pride “to give back to his country and become something bigger than himself.”

“I have to admit that he has accomplished something that I could not achieve and has gone above and beyond my expectations,” said CSM Tobin. “As a kid growing up in a small island named Samoa, I never had the sense of vision and attitude to accomplish what my son has accomplished.”

The newly commissioned officers – which included the Academy’s first all-female command team – received their officer bars and pins during small, intimate family ceremonies held all around the campus, after graduation.

Charlotte Le Ann Tobin Murphey, niece of CSM Tobin, first West Point graduate in the family, traveled from Germany to commission CJ. Charlotte, mother of three, is married to U.S. Air Force Col. Todd Murphey, an F-16 pilot who will become Group Commander for Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City, Utah next month.

She says being back at the campus was “humbling” and a “such a proud time for me.”

“I feel so blessed and I thank God that He saw me through my cadet days. He gets all the credit. Being there…took me back to cadet life again. It looks the same but now I really appreciate it so much more,” Charlotte told “Being able to commission CJ was truly a highlight in my life. It kind of signifies my passing on the torch to the next generation of Tobin West Pointers. CJ is a fantastic person. I have no doubt he will represent the Tobin family, West Point and the Army very well.”

On a lush green hill that overlooks the Hudson River – far from Lotopa, Samoa where CSM Tobin was raised – the Command Sergeant Major smiled and joked happily, downplaying this crowning moment in his life. Father and son nervously grinned at each other, as they prepared to exchange salutes. CSM Tobin raised his right hand, saluting his namesake, the new U.S. Army Second Lt. Charles M. Tobin, Jr., the first salute leaving father, son, family members and friends in tears.

“People ask me how it feels to salute my own son…I feel blessed and honored!,” he exclaims. “But more importantly I feel great because he has joined our formation that is best led, best equipped and best trained…he selected this profession by choice and will train to lead. The greatest advice that I can give him…be humble and treat people with respect and listen to them. They will serve you better. Live by your watchwords…trust, honesty and character.”

USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. told the graduates what makes these events so unique is how they serve to bind several generations that represent the past, present and future of West Point.

At a West Point graduation, drill and ceremony meet pomp and circumstance, indeed a grand spectacle that culminates with the classic hat toss.

Obama, in his keynote remarks, congratulated the cadets for taking their places “on the Long Gray Line” and asked the gathering to stand and pay tribute “not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.” “This is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, a few days after Memorial Day,” Obama said, noting the Class of 2014 “is the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

“Your charge now is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just. As your Commander-In-Chief, I know you will,” said the President. “May God bless you, may God bless our men and women in uniform. And may God bless the United States of America.”

CSM Tobin returned to the U.S. in April, home from a three-year tour in Afghanistan. Previously, he spent 18 months in Iraq. He lost nine soldiers in Afghanistan. He carries them in his heart and their pictures are with him always.

On Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, CSM Tobin drove into New York City to see the memorial at Ground Zero.

“On Memorial Day we honored those who serve this nation and have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Lt. Gen. Caslen said during graduation. “During the Alumni Review we reaffirmed a bond between the past service of our alumni and today’s Corps of Cadets. And with graduation, the great Class of 2014 joins the Long Gray Line, leading America’s sons and daughters while building the Army of today and the Army of tomorrow.”

Second Lt. Tobin has been accepted into the Army Aviation Flight School at Fort Rucker, Ala. He returns to West Point next month to assist with training new cadets.

When he thanked his family during a celebration on graduation night, CJ said: “Last but not least, I’d like to thank God, because without Him, I would not be here. None of this would’ve been possible.”

For more photos, see our Photo Gallery

See complete tribute written by Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Tobin here:

See complete transcript of President Barack Obama's speech at West Point here:

See the United States Public Affairs coverage of the graduation here:

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