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VMI moves flagpoles to re-center parade ground

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - For 100 years, cadets have marched out from barracks around flagpoles flanking four cannons.

But this year, the parade ground has a new focus.

“Since 1919, the barracks has expanded triple-fold as the corps has enlarged, as VMI has grown,” said Col. Keith Gibson, executive director of the VMI Museum System. “So the logic behind the movement of the flagpoles, now centered on the Marshall Arch and the Marshall statue, is following the exact same logic that was used in 1919.”

A lot of thought went into it, focusing on the statue of alumnus George C. Marshall, who was chief of staff of the Army in World War II.

“It’s an opportunity to really recognize the 20th Century accomplishments of alumni like Marshall,” Gibson said, “not exclusively Marshall, but all of those thousands that joined him.”

Walkways are the color of sand, and there are cobblestones reminiscent of the streets in Normandy.

“Segmented into 21 sections,” Gibson explained, “the highest tribute, the highest honor that one can receive in the military, the 21-gun salute.”

“We took Col. Gibson’s vision, and then of course we executed it,” said Maj. Aaron Groah, the Physical Plant project manager.

It was pulled together on a tight schedule, built between May and August.

“It was very nice to get that done before cadets really start to filter in here,” Groah said. “You know, we have matriculation this weekend, so we got that done, we got this project done just in time.”

Bringing new layers of meaning to already meaningful ceremonies.

“They are the leaders of the future,” Gibson said, “and they are reminded of that every time the step out on the parade ground as they come by George Marshall.”

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