Maj. Gen. Errol Schwartz, the Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard who briefly made headlines in January when President Donald Trump announced he would be relieved of his duties in the middle of the inauguration, was recognized in a formal retirement ceremony over the weekend.
Schwartz gave his farewell speech on Sunday at the D.C. Armory, the same place where he took the oath to join the Guard more than 40 years ago.
“It wasn’t about me. It was never about me. It was always about you. You made me look good. I would be nothing without you,” Schwartz told his fellow Guard members.
Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, who hosted the ceremony, spoke about Schwartz’s accomplishments over the course of his long career.
Schwartz immigrated from Guyana in 1972 and the experience of being a young, struggling immigrant shaped his perspective.
“When I came to the United States, I was at least four or five years behind my peers. And you’ll often here me say, I was on a treadmill when I came to the United States and I never got off because I always felt I was behind,” Schwartz said in his remarks.
Schwartz’s hard work and diligence paid off. He joined the District’s Guard in 1976, and steadily rose through its ranks. President George W. Bush made him the Commanding General of the D.C. Guard in 2008, and he has earned countless awards for his service.
Schwartz graduated from the University of the District of Columbia, and started his family life in Adams Morgan, where he came to rely on his neighbors as friends.
“They looked out for me and my wife when I was gone. When I joined the Guard and went away to basic training, they said ‘don’t worry we got her, we will take care of her until you come back.’ So it was a sense of community like we were all in the same struggle together,” Schwartz said.
In his retirement, Schwartz plans to continue his work with the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy, a program that supports at-risk youth in the greater D.C. region.
Program director Raynald Blackwell calls Schwartz “a great mentor.”
“He has been there to support me and trust me, in the work that I do. He allowed me to nurture my passion for helping youth,” Blackwell said at the retirement ceremony.
Schwartz is happy to be a role model for both young people and immigrants in Washington.
“They should not be fearful they should be hopeful. Stay focused, understand what your objectives are, and continue driving towards those,” Schwartz said.