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Before cadets serve their country, they serve in their community

In 2001, when Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets member Anthony Madeira learned that the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., was facing bankruptcy, he organized his cadet company to take action.

   

The regimental chaplain, Cadet Jonathan Smythe, presents the donations raised by Virginia Tech football fans for the National D-Day Foundation. The regimental chaplain, Cadet Jonathan Smythe, presents donations raised by Virginia Tech football fans for the National D-Day Foundation to April Cheek-Messier, the memorial's director of education.

Madeira, who graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, initiated a service project to raise money to help keep the memorial open. 

“When I read that the National D-Day memorial was in jeopardy and could be closed if it didn’t receive community support, I knew that I could do something to make a difference. That memorial symbolizes not only the sacrifices of the Bedford soldiers who served and lost their lives in War World II, it also serves as a reminder of the freedoms we have today,” Madeira said.

He also noted that getting the fundraising efforts off the ground was made easier because of the support from the commandant, Maj. Gen. Jerry Allen, and his staff.

In its first year, his company raised $6,000. The next year it raised $10,000, and by Madeira’s senior year his efforts had developed into a corps-wide annual service project that continues today.

In conjunction with the Homecoming football game held Sept. 11, 2010, the corps continued its annual tradition of collecting donations for the memorial. This year’s effort was coordinated by Cadet Adrien Wilkins of Apple Valley, Calif., a junior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and pursuing a minor in leadership studies from the corps’ Rice Center for Leader Development.

“I accepted the responsibility to lead the D-Day Memorial fundraising operation because I believe it is my duty to support such an honorable cause,” Wilkins said. “I could spend the extra time in some kind of trivial pursuit, but the distinct difference between members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and our peers is this calling to uphold the honor of those who came and fought before us. It also serves as a practical way to demonstrate and practice leadership qualities.”

The D-Day Memorial is a nonprofit organization that relies on gifts to sustain its operations.

Over the last four years, first-year cadets have traveled each fall to the memorial, thanks to corps alumnus Raymond Reed of the Class of 1957 and his wife, Peggy. The Reeds have funded the transportation costs each year, and the memorial grants cadets free admission.

   

A volunteer veteran at the National D-Day Memorial guides cadets through the monument tour. A volunteer veteran at the National D-Day Memorial guides cadets through the monument tour.

Current cadets learn to appreciate the connection between the corps and the D-Day Memorial by making the visit. They learn that 20 Virginia Tech alumni died on the beaches of Normandy and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, and the weeks immediately following. Eight of them died on the first day of the invasion, including 1st Lt. Jimmie Monteith.

Monteith a member of the Class of 1941, served in K Company. He led his troops on Omaha Beach and organized numerous assaults against the enemy, despite heavy fire. Monteith was killed in action and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Virginia Tech's Monteith Hall is named after him and now houses the corps' 3rd Battalion. A commemorative plaque hangs at the D-Day Memorial recognizing the 20 alumni.

   

The corps of cadets visits the national memorial annually. Cadets Sean McLaughlin (left), a freshman from Leonardo, N.J., majoring in general engineering, and Alexander Grant, a freshman from Naples, Fla., majoring in biology, were among the cadets to visit the memorial recently.

While the memorial honors all veterans and preserves the memories of those killed, Wilkins also adds that it is a stark reminder of the toll war takes on a nation and its people.

The corps of cadets is the largest, non-corporate sponsor of the memorial, and the relationship with the memorial foundation grows stronger each year. Thanks to the generosity of Virginia Tech fans, $3,370 has been raised so far this year, bringing the total the corps has collected and donated to more than $181,300.

  • For more information on this topic, e-mail Katie Gehrt, or call (540) 231-8068 or Maj. Carrie Cox at (540) 231-1718.

About the corps

    The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has been producing military and corporate leaders since the university was founded in 1872.

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has been producing military and corporate leaders since the university was founded in 1872. It is one of just two remaining military corps within a large, primarily civilian university. 

The corps' commitment to the D-Day Memorial earned cadets a commendation from the Virginia House of Delegates in 2007.

How to help

If you want to donate to the memorial, you can do so online.

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