Call to Duty

Call to Duty: Ben Fong ’27

Ben Fong '27


Cadet Ben Fong ’27 knew he faced an uphill climb while searching for a college. He wanted a school where the military was primary, not secondary, and because of an unstable housing situation during his senior year of high school, he knew he’d be paying for college on his own.

Getting a federal ROTC scholarship was a huge step—and so was finding VMI. “I saw the [post], and I saw the uniforms,” he remembered. “And I was like, wow, this is a military school … more than half of the [cadets] here were commissioning.”

Based on what he saw online from across the country, Fong applied to VMI and was accepted. But there was a big hurdle to be cleared before he could leave his native San Bruno, California, and head east. ROTC scholarships only cover tuition, and Fong didn’t have any way to cover the cost of room and board. “That was the biggest worry [in] applying for colleges,” related Fong, a psychology major who plans to commission into the U.S. Marine Corps. “If I got accepted to these colleges, how would I actually be able to attend? … I was just really hoping that I could figure out the math behind the money.”

As part of that figuring out process, Fong began to search online for scholarships. One day, he learned about VMI’s inaugural Call to Duty scholarships, which cover the cost of room and board for cadets who have already been pre-selected through a competitive national selection process to receive a federal ROTC scholarship.

“I came from having no home to VMI being my home."

Cadet Ben Fong ’27 Call to Duty Scholarship Recipient

Coupled with the ROTC scholarship, the Call to Duty scholarship, which is now supporting more than 80 members of the Class of 2027, provides an unparalleled opportunity for the recipient to attend the Institute at no charge.

When Fong heard that he’d been selected for the Call to Duty Scholarship based on his merits and potential, the relief and gratitude were overwhelming. It was confirmation, he believes, of the Institute’s commitment to ensuring that cadets who want to serve their nation will have the opportunity to pursue that goal. “I was thinking, man, they really care about their scholarship students,” said Fong. “So, I just thought, wow, I haven’t gotten to the school yet, and they’re already thinking about me.”

Because it’s helped him and his brother rats so much, Fong is eager to see the Call to Duty scholarship program continue. “It makes it more compelling to come here, above all other schools—that this school really cares about scholarship students,” said Fong. “It really promotes the idea that you want to serve, then, we’re going to make sure that you’re okay these four years, that money is not a worry.”

“I don’t want any other kids to have that worry that I did,” he continued. “How am I going to get here? How am I going to pay for this all?”

Now, a year removed from the stress of his college-and-money search, Fong has experienced what he calls a “180 life,” one focused on pursuing his dream of military service. “I came from having no home to VMI being my home,” he noted. Even when I visited back at Thanksgiving, I kept thinking about barracks, kept thinking about my BRs. … I always think about that shared suffering that creates a brotherhood that’s just like no other.”

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  • Mary Price

    Mary Price Development Writer/Communications Specialist

    The development writer plays a key role in producing advancement communications. This role imagines, creates, and produces a variety of written communication to inspire donors to make gifts benefiting VMI. Utilizing journalistic features and storytelling, the development writer will produce content for areas such as Annual Giving, stewardship, and gift planning.