So, a pal of mine asked me, “What has shaped your life? Where are you from?”
We were drinking coffee, I swear. He was also a trade school grad (what one calls a fellow military school graduate).
So, I said, “I won the lottery on parents — both of my parents were World War II veterans — and I went to Virginia Military Institute.”
VMI is one of those places that develop you. One of those places that holds you down and stuffs you full of suffering and character. Suffering builds character.
First, they dissassemble you, then they reassemble you from the broken parts, then they fire you in a hot furnace, then they test you, then they throw you out into the world — armed and dangerous — to put to work what they’ve taught you.
Same thing they’ve been doing for almost two centuries.
Come graduation, there will be far fewer graduates than when you matriculated. It is not for everybody and not everybody can make it. It is a stern, unforgiving test and if you graduate you will know that you have accomplished something hard. That hardness will be in you.
You will never have an association as that of your Brother Rats — men who have been through the same furnace and emerged intact.
It all starts right here. From this point on, VMI owns your butt. I was the first Rat — the lovely term they use to refer to freshmen after they shave your head — in my class to “sign the book.”
This is also your last look when you leave. It will still be there fifty year later when you come for your 50th Reunion.