The first day of college. A day filled with excitement, anxiety, smiles, hugs and a positive outlook on the year to come in a new environment filled with new people and things to do. Well, that is if you weren’t one of the 1,500 idiots that enrolled at VMI after high school. My first day of college was a bit unorthodox. As I looked into the face of the Brother Rat in front of me, tears streaming down his face, I almost laughed to myself. Not at him, of course. But at my own life decisions that had led me to this point. In that moment I cannot begin to tell you how much I wished I was in the shoes of one of my high school classmates. Oh boy, what have you gotten yourself into now…
Just 30 minutes ago we marched from the basketball arena where we said goodbye to our parents and loved ones and started up the hill to Barracks. As we sprinted inside, it felt like a prison; fresh meat was arriving… We stood in formation, 500 of us in all, in the Barracks Courtyard, as our cadre, which were like our drill sergeants, marched in to meet us. The Institute, that was just at full throat screaming at us as we entered, now fell silent as a crypt. All we could hear were bass and snare drums and the feet of the most impressive young men and women I had met in my 18 years of life. They seemed larger than life. Chests puffed out in the iconic gray uniform with white trousers, close cut hair, muscular, chiseled. Quite a contrast from the high school graduates that faced them. We had long hair, slouched, and looked around like a fish out of water in our t-shirts and shorts.
I don’t remember much of the speech that was given to us by a high ranking cadet at that time but I do remember that our cadre were “the essence of VMI” and that “They will not give up on you, even after many of you have given up on yourselves.” That stuck with me. This place was different. That was clear to me in that moment. During the next 6 months, known as the Ratline, I got to learn just how different VMI really was. We learned to eat, sleep, drink, speak, walk, and live in a different way. Different from our civilian college counterparts and with the rest of the world.
Our struggles are tough, the sweat runs deep, blood, thick, and the tears, emotional. Our smiles are real, our humor is crude, our mouths are dirty and our love is abounding. These are the stories of the VMI Men and Women, from their own mouths. You’ll howl with laughter, you’ll cry and hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two about life when you see it through our eyes.
Rah Virginia Mil’!
Cadet Eli Forbes
1PSG Alpha Company
Class of 2018
Virginia Military Institute