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Upper-class cadets to share their Normandy experience during National D-Day Memorial visit

August 22, 2016

First-year cadets listen to a guide at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia..

First-year cadets listen to a guide at the National D-Day Memorial.
First-year cadets listen to a guide at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia..

The bond between past and present will be a little stronger this year, as the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ 380 first-year students make the annual trip to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.

A dozen upper-class cadets will join the first-year students to share their experiences from the corps’ Global Scholars Program focused on the Allied invasion of Europe during World War II.

During a three-credit spring semester class, the upper-class cadets studied the many facets of the European campaign and how those lessons can be applied to current leadership and national security challenges.

In May, they traveled to Normandy, France, to visit historic sites related to the battle, including the place where 1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith Jr., one of Virginia Tech’s seven Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, fought and died. Nineteen other alumni were killed in fighting that day.

Through alumni generosity, the corps funded transportation and lodging for the group. 

“The goal was a world-class leader-development opportunity that blended classroom academics with unbeatable field experience,” said Lt. Col. Don Russell, deputy commandant of cadets for VPI Citizen-Leader Track, who organized the program. “For most of the class, it was their first time abroad or first time to Europe, so they were able to immerse themselves in international culture while honoring veterans and corps alumni.”

During the Sept. 5 trip to the D-Day Memorial, the upper-class cadets will recount their travels and the lessons learned along the way for the first-year students.

“My experience in France has forever changed the way I look at D-Day and World War II. If I can help share that perspective with the first-year cadets, I believe they too will have a greater appreciation for what the men on the ground, in the air, and at sea did for the world that day,” said Cadet Noel Sheaffer, a senior from Spotsylvania, Virginia, studying aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering

Cadets Noel Sheaffer, second from right, and Grace Spencer at far right, look over the beach in Normandy, France.

Cadets Noel Sheaffer, second from right, and Grace Spencer at far right, look over the beach in Normandy, France.
Cadets Noel Sheaffer, second from right, and Grace Spencer at far right, look over the beach in Normandy, France.

Sheaffer said she will take time to appreciate the D-Day Memorial in a new light.

“The part of the France trip that stood out the most to me was seeing the beaches and matching the scenery with the knowledge. It is one thing to study and hear about what went on during D-Day, but it is another to be able to visualize it while standing on the sand where the brave men stood.”

This will be the 10th consecutive year that first-year cadets visit the D-Day Memorial, a reminder of the commitment they are making to the corps and as future military officers.

The corps supports the memorial through its annual donation collection, being held Sept. 17 at the corps Homecoming football game against Boston College, which is also Military Appreciation Day. Cadets will be collecting at all gates before kickoff. 

Since 2001, the Corps has collected nearly $207,000 for the memorial and is the largest, non-corporate sponsor of the D-Day Memorial.

The D-Day trip would not be possible without the generosity of the late corps alumnus Raymond Reed, Class of 1957, and his wife, Peggy, who understood the importance of today’s cadets learning about those who have gone before them. Peggy Reed continues to make the trip a reality by funding the transportation and meal costs, while the memorial grants the cadets free admission.

Corps of Cadets service project supports the memorial

The annual trip to the National D-Day Memorial allows the newest cadets to learn about the special relationship between Virginia Tech and the Bedford memorial, as well as the history and people the memorial represents.

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets began supporting the memorial in 2001, when former cadet Anthony Madeira, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 2005, read that the memorial was facing bankruptcy. 

Madeira started fundraising as a service project, and his corps’ company raised $6,000 the first year and $10,000 the next. By Madeira’s senior year, the effort was a corps-wide annual service project. It remains so today.

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