VMI held two parades May 14, the graduation parade and the Memorial Parade. In the morning, Troy Smith ’21 ceremoniously handed over leadership of the Corps of Cadets to Cadet Kasey Meredith ’22 during the graduation parade the morning of May 14, 2021. Meredith is the first female regimental commander in VMI history. In the afternoon, the Corps of Cadets paid tribute VMI alumni who answered the call to service and gave the ultimate sacrifice in the Memorial Parade.
As a multitude of families, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the Institute looked on, the Corps of Cadets paid tribute to the almost 600 VMI alumni who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the nation’s wars in the Memorial Parade Friday, May 14.
The ceremony, which was redesigned this year to focus on all alumni who have fallen in war or because of war, began at 1 p.m. as a team of four cadets took turns reading the names of those fallen, beginning with the four who died in the Mexican-American War and ending with the 14 whose deaths were due to the global war on terror. Those reading the names were Julius Chung ’24, Alexander Ezzelle ’24, Jarrod Larosa ’24, and Alexis Motko ’22.
Reading the names took approximately one hour, after which time the Memorial Parade stepped off. Once the Corps was formed on the Parade Ground, the commander of each company stepped forward for a roll call of deaths from each war, with a report given from one company at a time.
Band Company took the lead, with Kevin Rae ’21, company commander, calling out, “Mexican-American War, report,” and a 1st Class cadet from that company replying, “Four died on the field of honor, sir.” This pattern was repeated all the way through the war on terror, with the highest number of deaths, 255, coming in the Civil War. At the end, Harrison Smith ’21, Company I commander, called for a count of noncombat deaths in service to the nation, and the reply came back, “Countless others, sir.”
After the roll call, wreaths were laid, one in front of Virginia Mourning Her Dead and one at each of the barracks arches containing plaques with the names of alumni who have fallen in battle. Col. Robert “Bob” Phillips ’87, Institute chaplain, then offered a prayer, which was followed by a three-volley salute and renditions of “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.”
The Corps then marched south toward Moody Hall and then turned north on Letcher Avenue before passing in review before Col. William “Bill” Wanovich ’87, who is retiring as commandant as of July 1, and Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent.
Special guest at the Memorial Parade was Enoch Woodhouse II, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of predominantly African American fighter pilots who fought in World War II and paved the way for the integration of the armed forces in 1948.
Now 94, Woodhouse was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army at his mother’s urging after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. He went on to serve in the 332nd Fighter Group as a paymaster, also known as a finance officer.
After retiring from the U.S. Army Air Force, Woodhouse attended and graduated from Yale University. He then studied law at Yale Law School and at Boston University, receiving his juris doctor degree from the latter. He worked as a trial lawyer in his native city of Boston for more than 40 years, and in the State Department and for the City of Boston as well.
Among his many awards, in 2007 he and the other Tuskegee Airmen received the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest honor, from President George W. Bush for facing two wars: One abroad and the other at home in terms of racial intolerance.
Before the parade, Woodhouse had lunch with a small group of cadets from Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC and offered brief remarks.
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