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World War I Memorial

Corps cadets standing a Veterans Day vigil at The Rock, memorial to alumni who lost their lives in WWI

Corps cadets standing vigil at The Rock, memorial to alumni who lost their lives in WWI

In 1919, the commencement program for Virginia Polytechnic Institute was a several-day event. There were dances, mock battles, speeches, and the awarding of diplomas to the graduates. An extensive alumni homecoming was also part of the ceremonies.

On Wednesday, July 2, Joseph D. Eggleston addressed the graduating class for the last time to end his term as president. One other activity that took place on that day was the unveiling of a memorial erected by the class of 1919 to "Our Dead Heros Over There."

The stone memorial is located on the Upper Quad, initially between Brodie and Rasche halls. It was moved during the construction to replace those two buildings but has been relocated and is now located between Pearson and New Cadet halls. The 2017-2018 Guidon, the guidebook for the Corps of Cadets, states "All cadets while in uniform will salute the Rock, located at the base of the VT. They will salute as they pass the Rock, facing the Rock (similar to the head movement performed in an eyes-right) three paces before and three paces after it. All cadets in civilian attire will put their hand over their heart and look at the Rock as they pass it (similar to the head movement performed in an eyes-right), three paces before and three paces after. The Rock is a memorial to all VTCC graduates killed in World War I and while not dedicated so, it is also a symbol to all former VTCC graduates who have died in conflict." This long-standing tradition was established by an editorial in the June 12, 1919, edition of The Virginia Tech:

"This thought, though simple, has a meaning which should always stand before our eyes, and it 'tis this: The memorial (not a monument) will be unveiled during Finals, and from that day hence let every student of V. P. I. salute or uncover to the memory of eleven brave warriors, and respect the small space it covers with the respect due the King of England, always being proud of V. P. I., her records, and her son."

There are eleven names on the Memorial:

Capt. Lloyd W. Williams (class of 1907)
Lt. Howard Thornton Barger (class of 1916)
Lt. Robert Lewis Butler (class of 1915)
Lt. J. Frank Clemmer (class of 1920)
Lt. Jerome M. Cudlipp (class of 1912)
Lt. James Wayne France (class of 1915)
Lt. Alfred Rorer Harvey (class of 1915)
Lt. Arthur Blackie Moore (class of 1917)
Lt. Sylvester Baker Moore (class of 1916)
Lt. Seth Whaley Murry (class of 1916)
Pvt. J. Campbell Berkeley (class of 1912)

Address Delivered on July 2, 1919, by the Honorable George Bryan, of Richmond, Virginia, at the Unveiling of the Monument Erected to "Our Dead Heroes in France" by the Class of 1919.

The Meaning of the Monument

When a great event in the affairs of men becomes history, those who have been connected with it, who have been part of it, and who have brought it to pass become great in the judgment and affections of men. The personal element is perhaps the dominant one -- certainly in the judgment of the average student of history. Thus when Austerlitz is mentioned, the first, indeed, the only name which comes to mind is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Crimean War is brought back to us in the charge of the Six Hundred, and Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville will shine forever in the firmament of great battles in the personalities of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

And so it will be - the actor, rather than the play is, after all, the thing, and so long as the nature of men and women remains what it is to-day, the world will have its heroes and its hero-worship. A moment's reflection will show it is all just and natural and exactly as it should be, for these battles and these men embody and bespeak a great principle -- a principle which ever since the dawn of history, ever since the Roman youth leaped into the chasm to save Rome, has thrilled the hearts and aroused the enthusiasm of men - the principle of self-sacrifice; the votive-offering of the life of one that many may live; the pledging of all that is dear in life as a collateral security for the happiness of a community or a nation.

It behooves a State to honor those who have suffered for it; who have blazoned its name upon the records of manhood; who have fulfilled its best traditions and who have given the lie to the pessimist who says that the age is decedent and that the glory has departed from Israel. And thus we meet to-day to step aside for the moment from life's thronging highway and take note of certain events of the recent past and of certain actors in them -- events, we may justly say, than which the world has never looked on greater and never will.

Thousands of years ago a mighty captain brought up an oppressed people from a house of bondage into a promised land. And when they came to the river which separated them from their destination, the waters were divided and the people crossed over dry-shod. And the captain commanded that twelve stones be taken out of the bed of the river and set up in Gilgal, saying "When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, What mean these stones? then shall ye let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land."

And so to-day and in days and years to come, when your children shall ask you, "What mean these stones which we are unveiling here to-day?" you will answer them. What will you say?

Why, first, you will say logically and succinctly that civilization came over the Jordan of 1914-1918 on dry land; that instead of being engulfed and swept away in the flood of as mad an autocracy and as brutal and degrading a philosophy as the world had ever looked upon, it was saved and saved for all time. You will tell them, though they will think it incredible, that in the year of grace and peace, 1914, there actually lived men who thought they were doing their god, Kultur, service by sinking an unarmed merchantman and sending scores of men and women and little children to their doom. You will tell them that later on these madmen so interpreted the code of international honor as to permit them to bomb Red Cross hospitals on land and torpedo Red Cross ships at sea - that they murdered Edith Cavell in cold blood and that they consented to the death of a million Armenians at the hands of the Turk. All this and much more you will tell these awestruck children. But you will also tell them that the end came -- that on the eighteenth of July, 1918, the tide turned and that on the eleventh of November civilization was saved.

And you will tell them two other things: First that justice was in large measure done; that the men who thought they could defy and trample upon all the laws of God and man with impunity were brought low and placed some in chains and some before firing squads; that their nation was divided and sub-divided, their army and navy reduced to impotency and a large indemnity required of them - all to the end that others as well as they should realize what it is to reap the whirlwind.

And then you will tell these inquirers who did all this under God. That it was first the common judgment of mankind that liberty should not perish from the earth and that twenty nations arose and declared war to the death upon the blonde beast; that of these, four waged for two years a magnificent series of battles against the foe and, being in the third year reinforced by their young ally from the West, they did the impossible and crushed the impregnable lines until the fainting and exhausted Hun threw up his bloody hands.

Yes you will tell them with entire propriety that in America the fires of liberty burned so bright that, when the hour struck, this nation arose in its might and labored and gave and fought until the end came and Victory smiled through the smoke of battle.

But you will tell of Virginia and its young men -- of the 2,300 alumni and students of this institution who heard and obeyed the clear call of duty and went forth, partners in as glorious an emprise as ever poet dreamed of. Yes, you will tell them of the thirteen sons of this school who counted not their lives dear but laid them on their country's altar, a willing sacrifice.

This is what we mean by these stones. But there is something more. We have paid a tremendous premium for the assurance that we have in this nation, this State of ours, the type of men and women who will resist the encroachments of autocracy and tyranny if any man or set of men is ever mad enough to attempt to repeat the history of 1914. A wonderful change has come to pass and the world breathes more easily. The atmosphere is clearer and there is a distinct sense of relief as men look upon the slowly-forming League of Nations which has for its basal object the abolition of war by political and economic methods far more persuasive than those of physical force. Yet let us not forget -- forget either the peril or the salvation. It is hard to believe but it is nevertheless true that only five years ago ruthlessness sat enthroned at Berlin and the awe of it and of the mighty army which was behind and beneath it spread through the chancelleries of Europe and men whispered to one another "Peace, peace -- let sleeping dogs lie.''

Yes, it seemed again:

"Truth forever on the scaffold -- wrong forever on the throne --
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch upon his own."

But the shadow lifted and from the mist and terror have come the clear outlines of a system of world law and order which will defy the strength of any one nation to overturn.

To that great result the sons of this institution have contributed directly and materially. We may not be able to point to a particular stone of the great world-structure and say that it was laid by this master mason or that, but one thing we know: that the workmen who labored and bore the burden and heat of that awful day were competent, and that one of their great sources of pride was that their enterprise was a joint one, not for the glory of the builders but for the salvation of mankind.

Yes, the verdict of history will be that the cornerstone was well and truly laid and that above and around it stands today a temple fit for the sessions of the parliament of man, the federation of the world -- a legislature upon the walls of which there shall be written as the first and guiding principle, the golden rule: and if this shall indeed dominate the councils of the members, the world will be made over, politically, economically, and spiritually.

Does some one say that the thought is too ideal for realization? I reply, No, we must put away forever that word as a word of reproach. For never was there an ideal more foolish in the eyes of so-called practical men, more blindly followed and more splendid with great results than the ideal of world liberty which on the sixth day of April, 1917, America embodied in its declaration of war against Germany. Never did knights embark upon a crusade for the Holy Sepulchre or go in search of Golden Fleece with purer and more disinterested thought than did America when she set out that day upon a journey which was not to end until the end had come also to the false philosophy which had made the world unsafe as a dwelling place and individual freedom a byword.

These are some of the meanings of these stones. To the students of this Institute there must be for all time sermons in them, eloquent of an ambition and a determination to see-it-through worthy the highest standards of Virginia -- its best traditions. With these the future of the commonwealth must be bright, -- a community spurred on to the solution of its problems of peace as it patiently yet thoroughly wrought out its problems of war. It is not exaggeration but exact logic to predict an abundant harvest from a wide sowing of good seed in rich soil. We here today dedicate this monument to the cause dearer to the heart of America than any other -- the cause of Liberty and World Liberty -- and we predict and are confident that in the keeping of the sons of this institution, this commonwealth and this nation, that Liberty will be forever safe.

[Published in the Wednesday, November 26, 1919, edition of The Virginia Tech, the student newspaper of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Vol. 17, No. 9)]