On the 15th of February, the VMI Family lost one of its most distinguished Alumni, Colonel William Dabney ’61, USMC (The announcement can be found on The Institute’s website). Colonel Dabney served with distinction in Vietnam, commanding two rifle companies of Marines in defense of Hill 881 South (Hat Tip to CDR Salamander). For his actions, during the Siege of Khe Sanh, Colonel Dabney received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps’ second-highest award for valor. Colonel Dabney eventually returned to The Mother I to serve as Commandant of Cadets, influencing a great many Cadets during their most formative years.
But the passing of Colonel Dabney is quite what makes him so special; he’s simply another warrior embarking on the great journey to Valhalla. No, it is what the Colonel’s story can teach us about leadership and personal courage. If you follow the two preceding links, you can read the story in full, including his citation for the Navy Cross. You can also read his remarks upon his receipt of the award.
Will the VMI Corps of Cadets please rise. (All seats remaining vacant after invited guests were seated had been occupied by cadets.)Our generation – these men who just stood before you – came home from war to a nation not much disposed to honor the nobility of their service. Today, as Pete said a few years late, you gave us our parade. Thank you!(Audience and Warriors applauded the cadets)Many of you will soon shoulder the responsibility of command leading the citizen soldiers of your generation. Eight of your number have already given their lives in the cause of freedom in Iraq or Afghanistan. Should you be called upon to take America’s patriots in harm’s way, you will find awesome, as I did in my time, their courage and determination. The experience will become the signal moment in your lives. We wish you God speed, and we salute you. (Another round of applause with the loudest and most robust coming from those 40 men in the front rows of Jackson Memorial Hall.)