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Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris

Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris, a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class, shares his story in Burruss Auditorium. (Shay Barnhart/Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech cadets heard a powerful message about the meaning of service and duty when Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris spoke during the week of Veterans Day—a special event made possible by the Major General Thomas W. Rice Center for Leader Development as part of the Cutchins Leadership Lecture Series.

Morris, a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class, received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Sept. 17, 1969, during combat operations in Chi Lang, Vietnam. His lecture was made possible through a partnership with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.

cadets on Caldwell March

Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris. (Shay Barnhart for Virginia Tech)

As the academic arm of the Corps of Cadets, the Rice Center’s mission is to develop cadets into the next generation of global leaders. Each year, center Director Elaine Humphrey searches out diverse speakers who challenge cadets—and the general public—to become better leaders.

a cadet takes a close look at a Medal of Honor

During a 2018 lecture, a cadet takes a close look at the Medal of Honor received by Leroy Petry, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant, for actions on May 26, 2008, in Paktya Province, Afghanistan. (Shay Barnhart for Virginia Tech)

“These lectures are meant to instill in our cadets both a profound appreciation for the service and sacrifice of these particular people,” Humphrey said of the Medal of Honor presentations. “More importantly, they drive home the fact that these heroes and their legacy of service are never forgotten, that we continue to honor them and aspire to be like them.”

These messages connect to the history and core values of Virginia Tech. Seven alumni have received the Medal of Honor.

“Listening to Medal of Honor recipients allows us to understand the breadth of the sacrifices men and women before us have made,” said Mame Ngom, a junior in Air Force ROTC majoring in political science. “Behind every story we are able to take principles and lessons valuable to our leadership development. Some of the lessons I have taken from listening to these heroic stories are the importance of hard work, integrity, discipline, and resilience.”

Past speakers have included Clinton L. Romesha, an Army staff sergeant who received the medal for actions on Oct. 3, 2009, during a deadly attack on Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan, and Leroy Petry, a master sergeant who received the medal for actions on May 26, 2008, during an attack in Paktya Province, Afghanistan.

The Cutchins Leadership Lecture Series is named for the late Clifford A. Cutchins III, a former bank chairman and Virginia Tech Board of Visitors rector. A cadet in the Class of 1944, Cutchins received his degree in accounting.

Shay Barnhart is the communications director for the Corps of Cadets.