BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After a photograph of a West Point Academy graduate crying at the commencement ceremony Saturday went viral on social media, we are learning more about why.
The graduate, one of 953, is 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache, who in seven years went from speaking only basic English in a working class neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to graduating from one of the most prestigious military and educational institutions in the U.S.
In that time, he served for two years as a member of the Maryland Army National Guard. Idrache left the National Guard in 2012 to enter the 214th class of West Point cadets.
As a kid, he didn’t think any of what he has now managed to accomplish was even possible.
“People where I’m from don’t grow up to be pilots right?” Idrache asked. “Like they don’t dream of flying a helicopter, that’s not something you do. You don’t just say I’m going to be a pilot and make it happen. There’re no aviation, there’re no helicopters, no flight schools. There’re none of that.”
But he credits a lot of people for helping him, including his dad, Dieujuste, who dropped out of school at 14 and left his country home to find work in Port-au-Prince to give his own children opportunities he didn’t have.
“My dad always said, ‘education is the only gift I can always give you, because I don’t have any anything material to give.'”
Dieujuste eventually came to America and was able to bring Idrache to the U.S. as well in 2009. Soon after, Idrache joined the Guard.
Idrache also credits his platoon leader, then 2nd Lt. Larry Halvorson, and unit office administrator Sgt. 1st Class Christi McKinney, who helped him apply to West Point.
In a comment on the Instagram photo that was liked and shared thousands of times, Idrache wrote:
“I want to thank everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments on this picture. SSG Bryant captured a moment that I will never forget. At this moment, I was overwhelmed with emotions. Three things came to mind and led to those tears. The first is where I started. I am from Haiti and never did I imagine that such honor would be one day bestowed on me. The second is where I am. Men and women who have preserved the very essence of the human condition stood in that position and took the same oath. Men who preserved the Union is a dark period of this country’s history. Men who scaled the face of adversity and liberated Europe from fascism and nazism. Women like CPT Griest, LT Haver, MAJ Jaster who rewrote the narrative and challenged the status quo to prove themselves worthy of being called Rangers. The third is my future. Shortly after leave, I will report to FT. Rucker to start flight school. Knowing that one day I will be a pilot is humbling beyond words. I could not help but be flooded with emotions knowing that I will be leading these men and women who are willing to give their all to preserve what we value as the American way of life. To me, that is the greatest honor. Once again, thank you.”