COLORADO SPRINGS — A Teller County man has been named a Distinguished Graduate from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.

Colonel Lee Van Arsdale was inducted as a distinguished graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point on May 17. Lee is a 1970 graduate of Manitou Springs High School and a 1974 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York.

Van Arsdale branched Infantry upon graduation and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division after Airborne and Ranger School, where he was an Honor Graduate. He volunteered for Special Forces and was subsequently assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group as commander of an A Team.

In 1985, Van Arsdale started the arduous process of training for assignment to Delta, remaining with “The Unit” until 1996, and becoming the West Pointer with more time in the Special Forces than any other graduate of the Academy. While with Delta, Van Arsdale played a key role in Operation Just Cause in Panama, including personally holding ousted dictator Manuel Noriega while he was cuffed.

He was also part of the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, more commonly known as “Blackhawk Down” from Mark Bowden’s book and the 2001 film. Van Arsdale earned the Silver Star for leading troops through intense enemy fire to the chopper crash site.

At an annual award ceremony at West Point on May 17, six members of the “Long Gray Line” including Van Arsdale were recognized with a 2022 Distinguished Graduate Award by the West Point Association of Graduates.

The recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Awards, along with graduates from multiple reunion classes, participated in the annual exercises by marching along diagonal walk on The Plain at West Point to the statue of Sylvanus Thayer, Class of 1808. The procession was led by Colonel Peter T. Russell, the oldest returning graduate, who, at 102 years old, placed a wreath at the Thayer statue’s base to honor “the father of the U.S. Military Academy.”