In celebration of Gen. Clifton B. Cates' 124th birthday, MMA Battalion Commander Victor Arturo Leon Aguilar carved out a piece of birthday cake with a saber. The academy's oldest cadet present, Gary Stewart '72, ate the first bite. The second bite was taken by the youngest cadet, Jacob Giles.
The annual tradition, which began in 2016, celebrates one of MMA's most accomplished graduates. Gen. Clifton Bledsoe Cates attended Missouri Military Academy and graduated in 1910. Cates was an honor student and four-letter athlete. As a college student at the University of Tennessee, he joined the United States Marine Corps during World War I. Cates led a distinguished military career, serving through several major conflicts, including World War I, World War II and the Korean War. He eventually became the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps and is well known as the man who fought Congress to save the U.S. Marine Corps from possible extinction in 1951, paving the way for the USMC’s growth and prosperity.
One of his most honorable moments, came earlier in his career, during World War I. In July 1918, Cates was in France leading a platoon within the 96th Company, when it was attacked -killing most of the company, including the commander. Cates took over temporary command, and while wounded in the leg and shoulder, he scribbled a note to the Battalion Commander, which read: “I have only two men left out of my company and 20 out of other companies. We need support but it is almost suicidal to try to get here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant artillery barrage is upon us. I have no one on my left, and only a few on my right. I will hold.”
In honor of Cates’ legacy, the Gen. Clifton B. Cates, class of 1910 “I Will Hold” Award was established in 2014 in commemoration of the Academy’s 125th anniversary. The “I Will Hold” Award is presented at the Maroon & Gold gala fundraiser each year. LCDR Eric Greitens, a best-selling author, Navy SEAL and humanitarian, received the award in April 2016. Two-time governor and four-time United States Senator Christopher S. “Kit” Bond was the 2015 recipient of the award. Gary Pinkel, former head coach of the University of Missouri Tiger football team was the inaugural honoree in 2014.