Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Friday, January 23, 2009

VMI and Shenandoah

Friday, January 23, 2009
I've never been one to try to explain the VMI experience to family and friends.  It's a futile exercise.  Trying to encapsulate the myriad of events experienced during a four year cadetship at this tiny military school nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley is a heavy task.  However, there's one slice of my personal VMI experience that came flooding back to me today when I saw this video clip of the VMI Corps of Cadets marching at President Obama's Inauguration Parade:

As a cadet, me and 1200 of my best friends marched in the Inauguration Parade for President Bush (senior).  What a day that was.  Frigid, windy and just downright miserable.  We waited outside in a parking lot near the Pentagon for hours trying to do everything we could not to freeze.  Finally, it was the Corps of Cadets' turn to march.  The parade order had the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in front of us.  Normally, being close to these famous beasts would be a positive thing but on that particularly cold day, these horses were obviously very hydrated and not nice to be around - especially downwind with a stiff breeze.  We knew that because of the smell of the mist of their bodily fluids that some of us unlucky cadets felt on our faces.  Not pleasant.  It was a long trek before we finally arrived at the reviewing stand of the new President.  Although the challenging temperatures, the tiresome wait and the dodging of horse manure could've dampened my spirit, it was still an incredibly memorable day for me.  I was extremely proud to be a VMI cadet that day.  Like the cadets that marched a few days ago, my chest was puffed out and my head was held high as I proudly marched in honor of the President of the United States, whether I voted for him or not.

The song being played by the VMI Band in the video is called "Shenandoah."  It is a memorable and haunting song for me.  For four long years I listened to Band Company produce that distinctive drum beat and those brass notes that comprised "Shenandoah."  For many cadets, I'm sure they grew tired of this tune.  After all, we were forced to march to it a couple of times a week during parade practice and every single weekend during parades.  But for me, I always loved that song.  It rings of tradition, promise and love.  One line goes, "Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter."  Little did I know that I would marry this daughter, my own Southern Belle.  The song rings of the Shenandoah Valley which VMI calls home, with autumn leaves of vibrant orange, yellow and reds, framing a blue skyline that proudly boasts, yes, God most definitely made this place.    

When I saw the video today and heard "Shenandoah" for the first time in many years, I have to tell you that I began to well up.  I was truly overcome.  The cadets, marching sharply in their overcoats, a sea of blue-gray with hints of red - a blood red that reminds us that yes, some of these brave young men and women will unfortunately and undoubtedly spill their blood for their country in the coming years.  Rifles held high and steady.  The "eyes left" command so they can properly honor their new President.  The infectious smile and the sincere giddiness of the First Lady with her thumbs up show of approval.  And the snap of one of the first salutes from President Obama.  All of these great sights on a memorable day in American history - in lock step to the song I want playing at my funeral.  VMI, you made me very proud today.  Well done.  -- C2, VMI Class of 1991



Hey, Mr. Cruz. I love your post. As much fun to read your memories as to see the video. Cheers, friend. Chris valenti '94.

The Cruzers

Chris - thanks for the kind words. Hope all is well. C2

The Cruzers

Alan Cruz on 24 Jan 2009
Chris, Finely written as always. The sense of pride and esteem was evident in your worded encapsulation of your time when you marched in review before President Bush and also now with the new brigades ascending from the halls of VMI as you saw on Inauguration Day. Patriotism among the Cruz family runs deeply ingrained within us for some reason. I guess America is just what every ordinary person seeks in the world. Freedom, faith, and an opportunity for a future for ourselves and our families. That is all worth protecting and America does that wonderfully. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. It welled up a time in my life when so many times I would watch from the steel decks as we shifted colors or even when we were moored to watch our national ensign waving with the backdrop of blue behind it and how it made me so proud to serve under a flag that not only stood for freedom but allowed me to discover on her soil the greatest matchless gift of salvation in Christ. God bless America, Land that I love! -alan

Moraima Aquino Lluberes at 2:46am January 24
Dear Chris;
Normally you make me laugh...but today, you brought tears to my eyes when reading this last blog about VMI & Shenandoah.
All these past events have touched our hearts, I think in everyone around the world. Because it doesn't matter who you vote for, but what our future seems like. As military families, this sounds more real, more down ... Read Moreto earth, as we are changing our 'boss' & who can decide what will be our lives from now on.
As a military spouse, my chest also puffs with pride...every night that I see my JUST PROMOTED TO LTC husband, lying in our bed, beside me.
BTW: we are also retiring next Wed Jan28...for a later RAD.
Kisses to Carol & kids!

Bill Smith at 3:00am January 24
Chris, that was a great write up. I really enjoyed reading it.

McClendon Waters at 11:35am January 24
Chris, thank you for taking us there--mist and all. Proud moment, indeed. Mack

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