VMI cadets head to Bedford for freshman tradition

The rat mass trip had been put on hold due to the pandemic

Bringing back a pre-pandemic tradition, VMI cadets are honoring those who served before them

BEDFORD, Va. – Hundreds of VMI cadets could be found swarming the D-Day Memorial in Bedford Saturday.

Senior Ethan Miles helped lead the time-honored tradition.

“VMI has brought up their freshman class, or the rat mass of 23+3 to symbolize, to honor the fallen who served in World War II,” Miles said.

The ‘rat mass’, VMI calls them, are the freshmen cadets. Today, they got more in touch with the rich military history of VMI.

Regimental Executive Officer Joseph Egbo says that they put the focus on the freshmen so they can soak it all in.

“As freshmen, we feel like they have the most to learn,” Egbo said. “They’re like sponges right now and we want to get them the important knowledge of VMI’s history.”

The rat trip to the D-Day Memorial has been a tradition since 2002, but this is the first year back since the pandemic.

”We’re bringing back our standards out of Covid, so basically bringing back stuff from my class and everything like that,” Miles said. “It’s really awesome to get back into the routine before Covid.”

The cadets broke into their companies to hear about the different aspects of the memorial and how it ties into VMI. Something that freshman Lukas Maurer finds humbling.

“Since we are freshman at a military college, a lot of us are planning on commissioning, myself included,” Maurer said. “To have history and to recognize the honor and just the sacrifice that these men and women gave. A lot of them gave their lives for us, so it’s very important to recognize that.”

Miles says that the trip is not only for history, but also to show the freshmen the type of cadet they should strive to be.

“We put ourselves in high standards, and we’ve got to make sure we keep it that way,” Miles said.

“D-Day was a big part of VMI’s history,” Egbo said. “With General Marshall, a VMI alumni, and all the alumni that served on that day and lost their lives, or even didn’t lose their lives but had to leave men in battle.”

About the Author:

Abbie is a multimedia journalist finishing up her senior year at Virginia Tech. You can watch her report on weekday evenings.