Colonel Billy Murphy is the commander of cadets at Valley Forge military academy. The author Wes Moore describes him as one of the most intimidating men he's ever met. But though firm, he's also fair.
Over the course of his studies at Valley Forge, Wes learns a lot of valuable life lessons from Colonel Murphy during the many little talks they have. In one such chat, Murphy teaches Wes about the impermanence of life, something that a trained soldier such as himself understands all too well. He tells Wes that when it comes time to leave military school, or a job, or even this Earth, you should've worked hard to make sure that your time mattered. Everything must end, but while it's in progress, you need to do whatever it takes to make every precious moment count.
Murphy's stirring words resonate with Wes, encouraging him to stick it out at Valley Forge and do his level best. They've stayed in his mind ever since, inspiring him to make the most of his life at every turn.