When incoming freshmen join the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, some of the first information they are required to learn are the values that adorn the Pylons above War Memorial Chapel. Although the War Memorial was originally erected to honor alumni who gave their lives during World War II, it now venerates all alumni who have fallen in the line of duty, and its Pylons provide counsel through the eight values emblazoned upon them.
Cadets are taught to learn from these ideals, and while they strive to abide by each, it is common knowledge that cadets cherish the Ut Prosim pylon most of all. After all, it is the commitment and responsibility toward service that beats at the heart of everything taught on the Upper Quad.
An integral part of the cadet experience is service to others, above and beyond what is required in every-day corps life. Corps-wide projects have included raising more than $167,000 for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.; mentoring students in the local public schools; and collecting more than $25,000 worth of school supplies for Iraqi children.
Additionally, each of the 11 cadet companies performs a service project every semester, strengthening every cadet's sense of community. Participation by the cadets from each company equates to thousands of hours of service in one form or another. As is customary in the corps, cadet leadership in each company is responsible for the brainstorming, planning, and execution of these projects.
The list of projects is quite broad in scope. Some companies utilize mainstream charities to aid the community; during the past year, for instance, cadets have supported Habitat for Humanity, the March of Dimes, and Trees for Troops. Other companies, however, choose to serve through less traditional means. For example, a unit worked in a thrift sale for Project Esperanza, an organization founded by Virginia Tech students to provide aid to the community of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. This effort crossed several borders, both geographical and cultural.
In contrast, during the spring 2008 semester, one company invested its time and effort toward service on the home front, spending a day with senior citizens at Warm Hearth Village. These cadets realized the importance of inclusion and their gifts of time, companionship, and laughter were no less valuable to the community than donations or aid of a monetary nature.
Cadets in the corps come to learn what it means to serve. It is common knowledge that more than 75 percent of graduating seniors will join our nation's armed forces, where they will serve with honor and distinction. Yet, cadets also understand that the most valuable service of all frequently lies close by, such as helping those in the Blacksburg community--and, in so doing, helping us all.
Alex Kibler (political science '07) is an assistant commandant for recruiting for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
Editor's note: Following last issue's focus on Honor, this is the second installment
of our treatment of the eight core values evoked by the War Memorial Pylons.