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Cadet March Honors Charge and Commitment

FullTextImage/img/@altCadets who completed the march to New Market and members of the VMI Civil War Roundtable lead the new cadets in their charge across the New Market Battlefield. -- VMI Photo by Chris Floyd.

LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 2, 2013 – The New Market cadet oath ceremony is all about new cadets.

It’s a time for them to pledge their commitment to the Institute, a time to re-enact the famous charge of those brave cadets who helped turned the tide in one battle of the Civil War.

But there is another group that is just as important to this special day for all VMI cadets. While the new cadet class arrived on air-conditioned charter buses, a group of 22 upper-class cadets showed up on foot, completing a four-day, 80-mile trek that simulated the march the Corps made in 1864.

“We’ve heard about it from the time we were rats,” said Morgan Walberg ’14, the executive officer for 1st Battalion and one of this year’s marchers. “We can face what they went through.”

Perhaps those who marched from Lexington to New Market this year did not experience the same hardships as that group that was called into service to aid a depleted Confederate force, but they got the idea. Marching up to 22 miles in one day is not easy for anyone, even with modern boots and uniforms.

That suggests an obvious question. Why?

“To commemorate those New Market cadets,” Walberg answered simply. “[Oath Day] exemplifies everything they teach at VMI. We try to live up to that standard.”

“This is our legacy,” added Tyler Spadine ’14, the cadet in charge of the march and Rat Disciplinary Committee vice president. “You think about how crazy it was 150 years ago. They were actually dodging bullets and cannonballs. It’s a really humbling experience.”

For Spadine, Sunday marked the second time he has made the march from Lexington. Walberg, a member of the cadre each of the last three years, has made the charge with the new cadets several times now. It’s an experience that never gets old.

“Every time I get that same feeling of excitement,” Walberg said. “It’s still a huge thrill.”

The ones who made the march this year are not the only ones that feel that way. Many 1st Class cadets recall the first charge across the battlefield as a tribute of sorts to the 257 cadets who marched into the din and chaos of battle. One of those is Alyssa Ford ’14, a self-professed “little nerd for VMI.” She was on crutches when her rat class stormed across that grassy knoll, but she understands what it all means.

“This was one of my greatest days as a rat,” Ford said. “I got a sense of a greater purpose. I still get goose bumps watching them charge that field. It gives you a greater appreciation for what happened at New Market.”

This year’s new cadets were at New Market to take their oath, a pledge of honor and “a covenant with all members of the Corps.” After a morning filled with history lessons and training for their re-enactment of the charge, the 4th Class cadets took that oath at the Bushong House, and they later received their shoulder boards, signifying that by taking the oath, they had taken up the cadetship and are now part of the Corps, even if they are at the bottom of the ladder.

“[The oath] reminds you that you have a commitment to VMI, a commitment to this lifestyle,” said Ford.

The shoulder boards were brought to New Market by those 22 cadets, representatives from all of the companies and organizations on post, who spent the previous four days on the march. It could have been more, for there was fierce competition to be selected as part of the elite group.

“A lot of people wanted to go,” said Walberg. “It’s quite an honor.”

The honor is not just in emulating those Civil War cadets. There is also honor in representing the new cadet class, for as hard as the cadre and upper-class cadets are on the youngest group, they want to see the new cadets succeed.

“They are our rats,” said Spadine. “I want to be a role model and a leader to the rats. That’s what I am working for. It’s kind of like passing the torch off.”

Cadets making the march from Lexington to New Market were Tyler J. Andrew, Company A executive officer; Alex B. Burton, Company B RDC representative; Taylor J. Floyd, Company C lieutenant; Joseph R. Porzio, Company D 1st Platoon lieutenant; Jack A. Dixon, Band Company commander; Chase C. Montambo, Company E executive officer; Andy C. Eddleton, Company F commander; Jake R. Moyer, Company G RDC representative; Josh T. Phillips, Company H RDC representative; Zach L. Stark, Company I 1st Platoon lieutenant ; Weston S. Hitchcock, 1st Class president; Nichole M. Harding, Cadet Equity Association president; Mike W. McDonald, Officer of the Guard Association president; Jordan L. Bailey, Honor Court vice president for defense; Tanner D. Bauer, RDC president; John H. McQuade, emergency medical technician cadet in charge; Dylan B. Kelly, EMT; Billy Cheatham, EMT and RDC operations officer; Cameron R. Armstrong, regimental executive officer; Morgan L. Walberg, 1st Battalion executive officer; Tyler J. Spadine, New Market march cadet in charge and RDC vice president; and Brandon L. Lunsford, New Market march assistant cadet in charge and 2nd Class RDC representative.

Marching the distance with the cadets was Staff Sgt. Michael J. Grimm, Army ROTC and assistant lacrosse coach.

–Chris Floyd

 -VMI-