I fit were possible somehow for Slade Cutter to return to Annapolis this morning. He would be met by the same blast of heat that is plaguing us. Slade might be forgiven if the were to observe:
“Whoa! I am in the wrong place. I must have taken a wrong tum. This is not what I was promised!”
A deep voice might answer, “Slade, my son, you are in the right place. No, you dido ‘t take a wrong turn. You are among your family and friends.”
Slade might cut in at this point and say, “I may deserve this, but they don’t.”
Slade Cutter was used to heat-even remarkable heat: The heat of battle, the heat of passion, the heat of strong argument. He experienced them all.
Slade Cutter was a remarkable man. A good son, a good brother, a good husband to two great ladies, and a good father. He was also one of the best naval officers I ever knew-particularly if your image of a naval officer is one of fighting his ship [not a desk]-and winning.
He was not complicated. He believed in the simple virtues of honesty, openness, an overwhelming sense of duty-for which he would give his experience at the Academy full marks-and above all a sense of service and honor.
What you heard and saw was the real Slade Cutter. He told it like he saw it-and that is the way he lived his life.
Occasionally it got him in trouble in the peacetime Navy but his fellow warriors knew he was a rock on which to build mutual trust.
When he made a promise, he kept it-whether to the service, his wife, or his family. When he raised his right hand and swore the oath as a new midshipman in 1931, it was a blood oath and one that he observed to his last breath.
Slade Cutter was a man of action-whether it was his famous left hook, or his right foot connecting with a football, or a torpedo sent on its way from SEA HORSE-he knew what had to be done and he did it. There was no hesitation; no half measures.
But perhaps what I most remember about the man was his approach to life. If he had been an average man he would have had a lot to complain about-career disappointments alongside his many accomplishments, declining health, spending most of the last years of his life in a sick bed. But I never heard him complain-not once.
The Naval Academy changed Slade Cutter’s life. He arrived at Severn Prep School across the river a raw farm boy from Illinois and was considered by many to be a free spirit who enjoyed pressing the envelope. But when he graduated from the Academy five years later-now a strapping man, a star athlete, and used to leadership-he had settled down and taken on responsibilities. The change was widely remarked among his classmates.
Slade’s great good fortune was to have been married to two great ladies, ladies who deeply loved him and were loved deeply in return. I should not surprise us that these ladies were close personal friends. In the past three years I have gotten to know Ruth Cutter and seen the care she has lovingly given to a proud but ill hero. Thank you Ruth for tiling such good care of our friend and comrade.
Slade once told me that his crew in SEA HORSE led him and he led them. They led him by their expectations of him and he led them by trying his very best to fulfill those expectations. The Lord has led Slade by his expectations of him and Slade has become a follower at last by coming home to meet his last obligations with joy in his heart and the knowledge that he has done his duty to God and country.
A final word for those who mourn for Slade and his family. If Slade were standing up here, he would say: “I have fought a good battle for my family, shipmates, Navy, and country. I don’t see today as an occasion for grief; I see it as a cause for celebration. The fight is over and we won..”
Let me close on a personal note. Perhaps the most emotional moment of my life occurred two months ago in Alumni Hall at the Distinguished USNA Graduate Ceremonies-watching with many of you-Slade Cutter receive the cheers of a standing Brigade of Midshipmen. Slade with a tear in his eye waved back to them and was obviously saying his final goodbye to an institution he deeply loved.
Goodbye proud, but gentle warrior, until we all meet again.