Stories of Impact

Murray ’24: “Exactly What I Needed”

Paul Murray '24


“I really just wanted something that was going to make me sacrifice a lot, that was really going to put me through some serious trials and tribulations. I knew I needed that. I knew high school me wasn’t good enough—wouldn’t be good enough for an adult life.” That’s how Cadet Paul Murray ’24 explains his decision to come to VMI—a change of course from his earlier plan of enlisting in the military.

“I looked at the man my father was,” Murray commented. “I looked at the man my brother was … the man my grandfather was, and then I looked at the man I was. And I said, ‘That’s not enough.’ I knew I needed change, and I knew I needed it fast. And what better way than to get an undergraduate degree and also go to the hardest college in the nation?”

Through talking with his brother, Joe Murray ’21, Murray came to the realization that the Institute was the place for him—and an Army ROTC scholarship made VMI even more appealing. This year, after progressing through VMI’s leadership development system, he’s the regimental executive officer, the same position his brother held as a 1st Class cadet.

An international studies major with a national security minor, Murray is also the morale officer of VMI’s chapter of the Newman Society and the marketing officer of the Thomistic Institute chapter, two organizations supporting Catholic cadets. After graduation, he plans to commission into the U.S. Army and serve in the infantry.

Coming in as a rat, Murray got in trouble sometimes for smiling too much—but they were smiles of happiness. “I would always get yelled at by my cadre,” he recalled, “but I would smile because this is exactly what I signed up for—exactly what I wanted.”

"I knew I needed change, and I knew I needed it fast. And what better way than to get an undergraduate degree and also go to the hardest college in the nation?”

Paul Murray ’24

Today, Murray has the perspective of hindsight on an event that happened during Matriculation Week of his rat year—an event that reinforced what VMI was really like. In his capacity as regimental executive officer, Joe Murray ’21 came into his brother’s room during a room inspection and then pulled him out onto the stoop to do push-ups. “It definitely hurt at the time emotionally,” said Murray. “But looking back on those things … it’s exactly what I wanted. It’s exactly what I needed.”

As his cadetship draws to a close, Murray is thankful for the leadership opportunities he’s been provided, especially the chance to serve in the second-highest ranking position in the Corps. He well remembers the stress and anticipation of Cadre Week, followed by Matriculation Week, where his job was to watch for anything not going as well as planned.

“It’s really an incredible leadership opportunity because you get to watch what it’s like to be an officer in a battalion-level training operation, which is superb—no other school gets to do that; no other school gives their cadets the liberty to do that,” said Murray.

“Those two weeks are probably the greatest strides I’ve ever taken in knowing myself,” he continued. “Knowing myself, knowing my limitations, and knowing how to blow past them is what I’ve grown in.”

Looking back on the experiences of those two weeks in August—Cadre Week and Matriculation Week—Murray can see the wisdom and worthiness of what he calls VMI’s “constant leadership cycle” of having upper-class cadets train new cadets as all strive toward a common goal. “VMI lets you run an operation, and it’s beautiful,” he stated. “It’s beautiful for the rats—the rats find it a valuable experience, although they might not like it at the time.”

Members of the regimental staff, of course, carry the burden of constantly serving as model cadets. “It’s exhausting trying to be perfect all the time,” he acknowledged. “But that’s why we wear [the chevrons]—you are the example.”

The unity displayed during those two weeks, especially by the regimental staff and cadre, shows VMI at its finest, Murray believes. “There is such a universal buy-in, a universal dedication to this school,” he noted.

How you treat people is at the heart of life, Murray acknowledges, and this is as true at VMI as it is elsewhere. What’s more, putting others first is pivotal to one’s own pursuit of honorable leadership. “I dare say, if you just treat people well at VMI, you could be regimental commander, you could be class president … you can be any position that you’d like as long as you know how to treat people,” he stated. “And that’s not just your superiors but your subordinates because your subordinates will carry you to those positions.”

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