The Story of the Strong Gray Line
In the wake of 9/11, West Point graduates served their countries in fronts of the Global War on Terror across the world. Among these were members of West Point’s Class of 2004: the first class to affirm their oath following the 2001 attacks, whose company-grade service as platoon leaders and company commanders placed them at the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That service brought sacrifice: 12 members of the Class of 2004 were killed in action, the highest of any West Point class since Vietnam.
In 2012, members of the West Point Class of 2004 sought ways to honor the fallen of their class and support their families and classmates. Cory Wallace organized a written tribute by classmates and friends, The Strong Gray Line: War-time Reflections from the West Point Class of 2004, published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2015. The authors pledged all proceeds to support the memorialization of fallen classmates.
In 2014, other members of the Class organized a fundraiser to support Gold Star Families members attending the Class’s 10-year reunion. Classmates and friends responded generously to maintain the active involvement of our fallen’s family members within our class community.
Inspired by these efforts, in 2018, the Association of Graduates class leaders chartered The Strong Gray Line Corporation as a registered non-profit in California, transferring remaining proceeds from the reunion fundraiser and future book royalty funds to the non-profit entity, along with an independent governance structure.
In 2020, our Class non-profit unveiled a diverse governing board with a clear mission and values.
The mission of the Strong Gray Line is to honor the fallen from West Point’s Class of 2004, support their families and classmates in need, and build a legacy of service.
Our vision is to serve our classmates and their loved ones in the following ways:
Past - Gold Star Family Support Programs:
● Honor fallen classmates
● Support families of fallen classmates through experiences for children, scholarships and providing real time assistance for funerals
Present - Classmate Support Programs:
● Provide emergency assistance for classmates in need and their families
● Enable classmates to connect and participate according to individual interests
Future - ‘Build a Legacy’ Programs:
● Collaborate with AOG to support West Point and its mission
● Honor our fallen classmates by leading the effort to create a West Point GWOT Memorial or related project
● Inspire continued service for all classmates after the military
Compassion. We endeavor to understand others' situations, then act to support them.
Integrity. We operate with honesty and transparency to build trust among our classmates, donors, beneficiaries, and partners.
Service. We believe in continued service to our classmates, their families, and the Long Gray Line at large. We believe service comes in diverse and creative forms.
Community. We build strong relationships, and appreciate the power of community and belonging. We recognize and celebrate different perspectives, experiences, and beliefs across our class, and encourage positive expressions that bring us together.
USMA's 2021 Air Assault school was named TF Zilinski, in memory of Dennis Zilinski. After one of the graduations, the 101st and Cadet cadre met at Dennis' grave. Mr. & Mrs. Zilinski were presented with honorary Air Assault wings for Dennis and LTC Alan Van Saun (USMA '04) shared some stories about Dennis.