We here at Gobbler Country pride ourselves on bringing you unadulterated thoughts and opinions regarding the athletic endeavors of Virginia Tech’s student athletes. Although that remains our focus there are times when we shift our gaze to other realities. This weekend is one of those instances. Monday is Memorial Day, but many of us, including me, will be celebrating today. While I have no issues with celebrations, and in fact I would argue that spending time with friends and family is exactly what Memorial Day should be about, I do feel that often the spirit of the day is lost.
For almost 13 years I have been proud to serve my country, and let me tell you, the Hokies represent in the service. During my second deployment I shared the same squadron with two other Hokies. In my current squadron there is another Hokie that I serve with, and in our airwing there are no fewer than four Hokies carrying the standard.
I refuse to wish people a “happy” Memorial Day. I feel that wishing someone a “happy” Memorial Day is well outside the spirit of the occasion. Instead we should look back and reflect on the sacrifices of the few to protect the many. While we can celebrate those treasured few, in my opinion, we should refrain from wishing one another well on a day that is not meant for such frivolities. None of us have made that sacrifice.
All Hokies are familiar with the War Memorial Chapel, but let’s take a moment to revisit. The chapel itself sits below eight limestone pylons that stand watch from the northwestern corner of the drill field. The pylons each convey one of Virginia Tech’s core values. The ideas of Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) are the superlatives communicated by these sculptures. Engraved on the pylons of War Memorial Chapel are the names of every Virginia Tech alum that has fallen in service of the United States. Nestled between the pylons is a cenotaph emblazoned with the names of the seven Hokies that have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Although remembering the courage of service members is normally associated with heroism executed overseas and thousands of miles away I think it apt to recognize a once future service member whose opportunity to serve his country was cut short. Though taken early, his actions undoubtedly saved lives. Air Force Cadet Matthew J. La Porte was killed on April 16, 2007 when a deranged gunman attacked Norris Hall. Cadet La Porte hailed from Dumont NJ and was awarded the Airman’s Medal for his actions during the massacre. This is the highest recognition for heroism that an airman can receive when not directly engaged in combat against an armed enemy of the United States. Cadet La Porte’s citation reads the following:
“When the shooter forced his way into the classroom, Cadet La Porte, in complete disregard for his own safety, unhesitatingly charged the shooter… drawing heavy fire at close range and sustaining seven gunshot wounds. He sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save others.”
Though he was never allowed the opportunity to be commissioned the actions of Cadet La Porte were most certainly in keeping with the highest standards of the United States Air Force. Rest easy brother.
Virginia Tech has seven Medal of Honor recipients, including two brothers, and four who fell in combat.
Antoine August Michel Gaujot, Army Corporal, Class of 1900.
Julien Gaujot, Army Captain, Class of 1893.
Earle David Gregory, Army Sergeant, Class of 1923.
Herbert Joseph Thomas, USMC Sergeant, Class of 1941, KIA.
Jimmie Watters Monteith, Jr., Army Lieutenant, KIA.
Robert Edward Femoyer, Army Second Lieutenant, Class of 1944, KIA
Richard Thomas Shea, Jr., Army First Lieutenant, Class of 1948, KIA
Follow this link to find the name, class, and associated pylon for every Hokie that has fallen. There are quite a few. This weekend I implore you to scroll down and pick a name. During the revelry of the weekend gather the attention of your friends and family and take a moment to honor one of these individuals. A moment’s silence and a raised glass recognizing their sacrifice is all that I ask.