On Personal Honor

Many people talk about personal honor; about things like responsibility, trustworthiness, integrity, and the like, but it seems few in this day and age still abide by any kind of personal honor code. The first day as a Rat here and the Virginia Military Institute, you are taught the Honor Code and it is drilled into your head: “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” The last part is usually the hardest to abide by. It goes against everything we’re taught as humans to turn in our friends, even family members, when they have done wrong. We are all to willing to forgive. The clause against toleration is even harder at The Mother I. The bond between Cadets, especially Brother Rats, is so strong that many are torn between their duty to protect their BRs and to uphold the standards of the Institute, but in the end, the Honor Code wins out.

At The Institute, the Honor Code is sacred. Those found guilty of violating it are immediately excommunicated and cut-off from everything VMI-related. They are escorted off Post and what few personal effects they own are returned to them. It is the only cardinal sin, of which there is no forgiveness, no penance, no punishment with which to absolve yourself of your sins. The only retribution for putting personal gain before personal honor is swift dismissal.

The Code is guarded jealously by the Corps of Cadets, and it’s chief administrators are the Honor Court. The Court consists of one President, three Vice Presidents, and two Prosecutors, all of whom are First Classmen. There are also six Assistant Prosecutors, all Second Classmen, who are the primary investigative arm of the Court. And just like any judicial body in the United States there is a jury, selected from the Corps, who make the final decision, based on the evidence presented them, on the guilt of the individual. And should that individual be found guilty, they are immediately dismissed.

Once they are dismissed, the Corps is then informed in the form of a Drum Out. In the days of the Old Corps, the guilty would be brought before the Corps and would be marched down Letcher Avenue(the main thoroughfare through Post) between a line of the Corps and out Limits Gates. But the public humiliation and shame drove far too many guilt-ridden individuals to take their lives before they should be accused of an Honor violation. Now, the Corps is awakened at 3:33 in the morning by the sound of a long drum roll and the lead drummer screaming “Death Before Dishonor!” The Honor Court then marches into the middle of the courtyard of Old Barracks and announces that the guilty has put personal gain above personal Honor and has been dismissed. Their name will never again be mentioned inside the walls of Barracks and they will never again be allowed to set foot on Post.

And while the rest of the world may crumble in its corruption and in the dishonesty of its officials, the Institute soldiers on, set in its ways and upholding those spartan values which have proven to be so important in life.

Death Before Dishonor!

This entry was posted in VMI.

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