Virginia Tech Magazine
Virginia Tech

The Pylons at Virginia Tech
The majestic Pylons stood watch over you as a Virginia Tech student, and they still do. The names of the Pylons—Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Loyalty, Service, Sacrifice, Duty, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve)—embody the values that members of the Hokie Nation hold in highest regard.

In a series of alumni-penned essays, we want to share with readers the stories from your diverse academic, personal, and professional backgrounds that express how you live out these values. To be considered, select a Pylon value, and send a 100-word abstract to

Although War Memorial Chapel, completed in 1960, was initially intended to honor Techmen killed in World War II, the names of alumni who have died in military conflicts beginning with World War I are now carved on the Pylons. On the upper level, the Memorial Court houses the sculptured Indiana limestone Pylons. The four left Pylons were designed by Henry Kries; the right Pylons were designed by Charles Rudy. The lower level houses a 260-seat chapel.
Why We Fight
Lunch pail holds significance for Echo Company Marines

Capt. George Flynn '01 (left), who took a lunch-pail mindset to the Marines, chose to write about the Pylon value of service.
Capt. George Flynn '01 (left), who took a lunch-pail mindset to the Marines,
chose to write about the Pylon value of service.
I took command of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines on Nov. 8, 2010. The battalion is stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., and its nickname since the Vietnam War has been "The Magnificent Bastards." About a year before assuming command of a company of Marines, I began looking for ways to inspire them and build a strong sense of pride for the unit. The one thing I kept coming back to was how [a] lunch pail serves to inspire not only the greatest defensive scheme in all of football but also everyone who knows what it means to be a Hokie. It certainly has inspired me. With the lunch-pail idea in mind, I went on eBay and ordered an antique lunch pail and, when I had a chance to visit Virginia Tech in the spring of 2010, walked onto the Drillfield and put some grass inside, just to give the pail a piece of home. The lunch pail then sat on a shelf in my garage, waiting in the postal box in which it had been delivered.

The weekend after taking command, I took the lunch pail out of the box, spray-painted it black, painted "Win" on the front and "Echo" on the back, and put a Marine Corps sticker on the side. During my first field-training exercise with the company, I carried it with me wherever I went; and when I was teaching a class or simply talking to the Marines, I made it a point to have the pail nearby. Eventually, Marines started asking, "Sir, what's up with the lunchbox?" After correcting them a few times and making sure they understood that it was a lunch pail, I tossed out my idea.

I told them all about Virginia Tech and the football team's use of the lunch pail and how, after April 16, the names of the 32 victims were placed inside as remembrance. Based on that inspiration, I explained to the Marines that I wanted each of them to identify and truly understand what they are fighting for. I wanted to ensure that they took the time to truly grasp why they make the sacrifices that they make in the interest of serving this great country as U.S. Marines. My guidance was simple: Pick one thing with emotional significance and one that serves as an example of how great this country is. Each Marine would put a memento of both inside the lunch pail.

One of them finally said, "Sir, it is kind of like you are asking us to put our hearts into that pail, and so in a way, that lunch pail will signify the heartbeat of the company." With that statement, my Marines took ownership of the lunch pail. They took ownership by putting interesting, personal, heartfelt statements of themselves and what they care about into the lunch pail.

That lunch pail would come to house pictures of children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends, the American flag, and even some stories or descriptions of family traditions, favorite hangouts, or anecdotes that serve as an example of what it means to live in America.

In January, the company was en route to Bridgeport, Calif., to conduct three weeks of cold-weather training in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. About halfway into our trip, the buses stopped to allow the Marines to buy some snacks at a local grocery store. While in the store, I noticed over and over again how many of the Marines could not move 10 feet down an aisle without someone approaching them and thanking them for their service. I thought to myself, "Put that in the lunch pail." On my way out of the store, I watched as a gray minivan came to a screeching halt and two college-aged women jumped out and ran up to two of my 19-year-old lance corporals and asked if they could get their picture taken with them. After the women left, I walked up to the now-blushing Marines, asked them about what just happened, and the response from one was classic: "Sir, can we put that in the lunch pail? 'Cause I would fight for that any day of the week!"

Since then, every week I award the lunch pail to the platoon whose work ethic exemplifies the Marine Corps standards that I expect from the company. When that platoon is given the lunch pail, the Marines pick someone who best displays those traits, and it is his honor to carry the lunch pail to all company training. The Marine who carries the lunch pail places it with the company guidon (the scarlet and gold flag) whenever the company is training. As Marines join the company, they are required to identify the two things for which they are willing to fight.

Echo Company is now known throughout the battalion as the blue-collar company that carries the lunch pail. And I think I have made a few additional Hokie fans in the process.

Stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., Capt. George Flynn (business information technology '01) is currently deployed to Afghanistan and has deployed three times previously in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.


Go to digital edition »
Fall 2011
The Pylons at Virginia Tech
Echo Company's lunch pail
Echo Company's lunch pail

Capt. George Flynn '01 and Echo Company
Echo Company, 2nd Battalion,
4th Marines, stationed in
Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Capt. George Flynn '01 and Echo Company