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If These Walls Could Talk: 150 Years of Corps of Cadets History

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Celebrate the 150-year legacy of Virginia Tech through the history of its cadets through a one-of-a-kind sesquicentennial show, created and produced by the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology, that was projected onto the façade of Lane Hall. The times and the uniforms may have changed over the decades, but the lifelong bonds of cadets are just as strong now as they were then — forged by a call to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The Corps of Cadets is the bridge between the university’s past and its future. Cadets are the keepers of tradition while they hone their skills to be the leaders of tomorrow. If you're a Hokie, there's a little bit of the Corps of Cadets in you.

It began in 1872. I was not here then, but the ground where we stand saw the arrival of that first cadet. I did not witness Addison Caldwell's 26-mile trek across the Appalachian Mountains from Craig County to register as the first student at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. But it is with the same spirit and tenacity, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has served these past 150 years. It was in 1888 that I began standing watch as Barracks Number 1 and had the honor to serve as hearth and home for these cadets until 1967. Thought I no longer serve as a barracks, I have stood silent witness as generations of students have strived to exemplify Virginia Tech's values. The time and the uniforms may have changed. The life-long bonds they form are just as strong now as they were then. Diverse in backgrounds, unified in service, They come here from all over the world and from all walks of life to band together to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Whether in times of celebration, or in times of mourning, cadets are there to support each other and the Virginia Tech community at large. It is the shortest words on the Pylons. Yet one of the most difficult to achieve. It is a cadet's obligation to know what they ought to do and to do it. Corps alumnus, Major General Cecil Moore, became the chief engineer for then General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He knew his duty was to build America and its allies a way to the heart of Berlin. During his service in World War II, Moore earned two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, a Distinguished Service Medal, and a Bronze Star. He helped change the course of the war. The centoaph now bears the names of eight alumni who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military award for valor in the line of duty. Whether in service or in life, cadets are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard of integrity and selflessness. They strive to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and are never content with a half truth when the whole can be one. To be an honorable leader, one must be completely trustworthy, for leadership is built on trust, and trust is built on honor. Today, cadets stand vigil and proudly carry our flags to remind us that honor must be earned each day and guarded to ensure future success. It is missed by many, but I am represented here, too. The concept of loyalty means to be faithful and true in your allegiance to the nation, the state, the community, our school and our home. Lieutenant Colonel George McNeil faithfully dedicated his career at Virginia Tech to strengthening the corps. Under his loyal leadership, the Highty-Tighties tripled in size and gained national recognition. If you practice brotherhood, do your duty , always with honor and loyalty to something greater than yourself and others, you will be qualified to raise your hand as a leader and say ,"Follow me." Throughout my time here. I have watched many come and grow to be such leaders. Their accomplishments and contributions have been many. An icon of the Corps of Cadets, Skipper and its dedicated crew would not exist today without the leadership of alumnus Homer Hickam. In the winter of 1963, Hickam and fellow cadets, George Fox and Butch Harper, scraped together the materials and money to build the corps' first cannon, giving it the same nickname as recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Upon graduating Virginia Tech, Hickam served six years in the Army, receiving a Bronze Star for his service as a combat engineer in Vietnam. He eventually went on to train NASA astronauts for numerous space shuttle missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope deployment. The Service Pylon reminds us that leadership will require courage in time of peace and in time of war. A dedication to service is engrained in all that the corps represents and all who marched in its ranks. The names etched on the Pylons remind us that service requires sacrifice, even unto life itself. Each name is a story. Each name is a reminder of those who came before. Each name calls us to service. Ut Prosim, That I May Serve. These words are an encapsulation of what it means to be a cadet and a hokie. A call for us to embody each Pylon in all that we do. We are here as part of a great celebration, a sesquicentennial. It is a time of honoring the past and pledging to lead our lives in ways that we can all be proud of in the decades ahead. This high ground. This Upper Quad. This corps. And my modest contribution by being here is to make good on that pledge. That we will continue to the next 150 years.