by Alexis Johnson–
For most Veterans Day is a time to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. military, but for others Veterans Day at Virginia Tech takes on a whole new meaning.
According to the History of the Corps of Cadets, Virginia Tech started as a military school in 1872. Now the Corp makes up about 4 percent of the student body according to Virginia Tech Student Affairs.
Each year the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets organizes and plans several events including remembrance ceremonies, the lowering of the flag, and the firing of Skipper, the Corps of Cadets’ cannon to recognize those that have served, specifically those from Virginia Tech. One event, in particular, is the annual guarding of The Rock hosted by the Robert Femoyer Service Squadron (RFSS), a leadership organization within the Virginia Tech Air Force ROTC program.
Located on the Upper Quad just outside of New Cadets Hall, The Rock is the Corps of Cadets memorial dedicated to Hokies who fought in World War I.
This year, two members of the RFSS, were selected to plan, organize, and coordinate 96 cadets and officers to participate in the guarding of The Rock. Cadets Sakdithep Phongpitakvises and Nyaima Brackner have been planning this event for months and say that it “provides excellent leadership and organizational skills.”
The event was held over a 24 hour period, beginning midnight Friday, Nov. 10, and ending midnight Saturday. Each cadet had the opportunity to sign-up for 30-minute time slots. In groups of two, cadets stood at attention guarding the memorial making a switch every 30 minutes.
“It’s a very small sacrifice compared to what all the veterans have sacrificed for us,” said Cadet Brackner. “It’s honestly just thirty minutes of our lives,” added Cadet Phongpitakvises, “you get a little taste of what they (veterans) go through and get a little taste of why you want to serve.”
According to Cadets Brackner and Phongpitakvises, standing at the rock is “a time for self-reflection.” In fact, their goal for this year was that each cadet who volunteered would reflect on the sacrifices that each veteran has made before them and the sacrifices that they themselves will make in the future.
“Part of the reason I stand in front of the rock and I guard it is to go back on self-reflection and I ask myself why am I in the core? Why do I want to serve?” said Phongpitakvises. “That’s the stuff that goes through my head as I’m standing at the rock and that’s what I want others to think about.”
“Why are you here? There must be a purpose to what you’re doing. If there is no purpose, then why are you doing it?” added Phongpitakvises.
The memorial also has a special stone in memory of Cadet Matthew La Porte who was killed in the April 16 shooting.