Editor's note: This article was first published in May 2016.
A powerful image of a West Point cadet standing at attention, tears streaking his face, has come to symbolize the raw emotion surrounding graduation from the prestigious military academy.
"At this moment, I was overwhelmed with emotions," 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache, who came to the U.S from Haiti in 2009, wrote in a comment on West Point's Instagram post.
U.S. & World
Idrache was one of nearly 1,000 cadets honored at West Point commencement on May 21. The academy's top-ranking physics graduate, Idrache will attend the Army Aviation Center for Excellence in July to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.
That dream was born years ago in Haiti, where Idrache watched in awe as Chinooks on humanitarian missions descended on his native Port-au-Prince, according to the Army.
"People where I'm from don't grow up to be pilots right? Like they don't dream of flying a helicopter, that's not something you do," Idrache said in an interview posted on the Army's website.
Inspired and motivated by his father, who dropped out of school at 14 to provide for his family, Idrache devoted himself to his studies. In 2009, he joined his dad in the U.S. and enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard, where he served until 2012.
While in the National Guard, Idrache was drawn to West Point, but applying there, he thought, was a shot in the dark. Four years later, he graduated with honors.
He paid homage on Instagram to the cadets who have gone before him.
"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," he wrote. "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 image — posted on Facebook and Instagram — has garnered thousands of likes, shares and comments. Idrache thanked those who shared kind words and said he would never forget that moment.
"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."