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A Little about VMI
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Michigan, United States
Member Since: September 10, 2004
entire network: 1,610 Posts
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Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006 - 02:19 AM UTC
Steve brought it up, and since it's a bit off topic, I started a new one.

Virginia Military Institue is America's oldest (1839) public, state military college, as opposed to the Federal Military Academies. Most people haven't heard of it, or hadn't until the Supreme Court case a few years ago determined that a public university (as opposed to a PRIVATE university) could not have a single sex admission policy. And many that HAVE heard of VMI may have a few misconceptions.

It DOES require all students to wear uniforms all the time and live in a barracks. It DOES require all students to take ROTC classes.

It does NOT require (since about 1989 or so) students to actually accept a commission in the Armed Forces, and is therefore NOT a "military academy" like the Service Academies.

It IS a public university and therefore one acutally has to pay to go there. I'm fond of telling my West Point friends (some of my best friends went to WP :-) ) when they tell me their education was free, that you get what you pay for. (There's also that thing they say about taking the $100,000 education and something about one nickle at a time, but we'll leave that part out of this family friendly site )

As Steve indicated, particulary during the late 60's when I went through until the mid 70's, there were MANY things about the VMI ratline that made it a much more difficult school to attend. His references to "The Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy's incredible loosley fictional book about his time at "Carolina Military Institute (read: The Citadel) are good. I graduated almost 35 years ago, and reading that book STILL makes me break out in a sweat.

I know two people personally who were "rats" (that's freshmen) at VMI (one who attended a year before I arrived, and one actually in my class) that were accepted into WP the following year, eventually graduating from there. BOTH of them stated that plebe year at WP, while longer, was cake compared to the ratline at VMI.

As Steve indicate, there were things commonly done during our time a VMI that had LONG since disappeared from the Academies. (As they have now from VMI). For the most part, that's probably for the best. If someone were to try to use the same practices used to "recognize" freshmen at the end of the year that were part of "Bloody Sunday", they'd not only be expelled, they'd go to jail. That is no exaggeration.

The two schools have different missions. The service academies are designed to produce career military officers. VMI uses the military environment as a teaching method, with a secondary goal of producing "citizen soldiers", a VERY 19th century concept.

But for ALL that, not only would I NEVER have considered going anywhere else, I am totally convinced that for me, the entire process was EXACTLY what I needed to provide me with the self discipline and inner strength to get where I am today.

And for those who have the temperment to take "the road less travelled" you will NOT find a place which comes CLOSE to teaching not only the academic requirements needed for life, but the intangibles that our society keeps begging for, like moral courage and integrity.

But I will never claim to be unbiased about my alma mater, and no VMI grad will either.

(PS, every West Point and Annapolis graduate who wore 5 stars during and after WW II, to include Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Nimitz, etc , ALL worked for a VMI grad, General of the Army George C. Marshall, who was not only the equivalent of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but went on to become the Secretary of State, and author of the Marshall Plan, for which he won a Nobel PEACE Prize.)

Tom Hathaway

VMI Class of 1972
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Ontario, Canada
Member Since: December 19, 2004
entire network: 884 Posts
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Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006 - 02:43 AM UTC
Thanks Tom,

Its great to learn new stuff and I knew next to nothing about VMI. Thanks for sharing this info with us.


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Texas, United States
Member Since: September 15, 2002
entire network: 8,985 Posts
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Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006 - 08:56 AM UTC
Thanks for the indepth Tom. Here are a few more things about our systemAnyone who is your classmate is called a Brother Rat. You may hate the guy with a bloody blue passion, but as he is a "BR" you are obligated for life to help him in times of crises. There is also a big brother - little brother system we refer to as dykes (a very old term in existance long beofre it came to mean what it does today). I have a big dyke (who was my senior) and two little dykes (Freshman). The bond there is also for life. One thing that we hold with the greatest of pride is our Honor system. A cadet does not lie, cheat , or steal nor does he tolerate those who do. West Poinnt has come to us to learn why ours works and their's has failed so many times. Considered one of the finest engineering schools in the nation and just recetly there Liberal Arts program also got recognised in the same manor. We had a saying that especiallyholds true "It's a hell of a place to be at and it's a Hell of a place to be from". On the lighter side there was a movie made in the 30's called Brother Rat. It's goofy, but two of the stars in it were Ronald Reagan and Eddie Albert. Anybody wanting a historical about George Patton and Thomas Jonathon Jackson associations can PM me.
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Indiana, United States
Member Since: June 29, 2003
entire network: 70 Posts
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Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2006 - 03:23 AM UTC
I visited VMI a couple of years back on the way to Yorktown Virginia. The bad thing was I went on Easter Sunday and everything was closed when we got there. I knew about the Stonewall Jackson statue and the 4 Apostles, but I didn't know that Little Sorrel was buried there. Anything good in the Museum? It was closed too. We did get to go see Stonewall's grave though. Very interesting.
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Michigan, United States
Member Since: September 10, 2004
entire network: 1,610 Posts
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Posted: Monday, February 27, 2006 - 02:57 AM UTC
The VMI museum has temporarily been relocated over on the other side of the parade GROUND (as opposed to "deck", it's an inside joke!!!) in the George Marshall Museum. Both have a lot of great things to see. The plan is to put the museum back in the basement of Jackson Memorial Hall (the Chapel) where it's been for quite a while, once they do some long overdue renovation. There's a painting inside the chapel of the charge of the cadets in the battle of New Market, which I believe is the largest oil painting in the world. And if you are in the vicinity of New Market, about 80 miles north of Lexington, the battle field and museum there are a nice visit as well.

Actually Little Sorrel isn't buried at all, he's been preserved and is still around for viewing!!! The contents of the museum changes with some permanent stuff, and if you're in the neighborhood, I'd recommend both museums. If you're there, say hello to COL Keith Gibson, class of 1977, who's the director. He's a great guy and I've worked on some things with him before.

Class of 1972