McKiernan, who is commander of both U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, is a native of the Virginia Peninsula and was a 1968 graduate of Kecoughtan High School. In 2003, Gen. McKiernan was commander of coalition ground troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At William & Mary, he received his undergraduate degree in history and was a member of ROTC and the Rifle Team. He returned to his alma mater in 2004 to receive an honorary degree of public service at the College's annual Charter Day ceremony. During an interview at the time, the four-star general discussed how his experience at William & Mary contributed to his successful military career.
"When you graduate from an undergraduate institution, you come away with some socialization that has taken you from being a teenager, if you will, to a young adult," he said. "If you come away with an understanding of some intellectual discipline and understanding of what doors are open to you for the rest of your life to learn things from, I'm not sure it gets any better than that. I was like most college students. I really never knew what I should major in, and I didn't know what I would do when I graduated from college. But the most valuable benefits were transitioning to become an adult and learning some intellectual discipline."
McKiernan ‘s entry in the magazine was written by Gen. Wesley Clark, a retired general and former NATO commander. McKiernan held three positions in the Army under Clark's command.
"He didn't hesitate to tell President Obama that he needed more troops in Afghanistan, and won an additional 21,000 troops to aid more than 35,000 already there," Clark wrote. "McKiernan is not afraid to stand up and ask for what he needs."