We had planned this long before we heard of the restrictions put in place by VMI this year. The fact that the annual Lee-Jackson Day parade was not ending on their grounds meant a quick change of plans, so that we put the word out to gather after the service at the LEE Chapel, instead of immediately following the parade.
At the conclusion of the the Chapel service, we trudged up the hill to the parade grounds at VMI, and gathered in front of the Jackson statue, at the Jackson arch. Unlike previous years, there were several units of Keydets drilling around the grounds. As we unfurled the 22 x 32 flag, and positioned it for a photo, we noticed that the units had stopped drilling to watch. After several minutes of photos and quiet reflection, we began to sing Dixie. In years past, the echo of the song off of the high building was enough to send goose bumps up and down all who gathered, but NOTHING prepared us for what happened next...
...as we sang, many of the Keydets joined in the chorus, one by one. Dixie's Land bounced off of the buildings and echoed loud and strong, and when we finished, we turned to find that many of the windows had opened and Keydets were gathered. They added their voices to a Rebel Yell at the close of the song that was extended in length and loud enough that it was certainly heard by Jackson himself in the heavens. Shortly after that, a Confederate Battle Flag appeared from one of the windows.
We were honored to be a part of this moment of remembering Jackson on the grounds that he knew so well, and pleased to find that despite what appears to be attempts by the administration to remove the proud legacy that Jackson and the Confederacy have bestowed on the school, the student body still has a healthy respect and admiration for the man who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Virginia.
GOD BLESS GEN. JACKSON, AND GOD BLESS THE BOYS OF THE INSTITUTE!
*Many thanks to Judy Smith Photography for the wonderful photo, and to our friend Greg Randall for joining us and lending his support and handsome likeness of the general!