VMI Keydet marks New Market anniversary in a unique way

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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) For most parades at VMI, they march out to a military tune.

But today, just a quiet drumbeat.

Perhaps, something more worthy of a funeral.

“It’s an important last statement that they receive and that they make in the preparation and in the presentation of this parade that comes just ahead of the graduation itself,” Col. Keith Gibson, the Executive Director of the VMI Museums System says of the parade.

A parade to mark the 1864 Battle of New Market, and the keydets who died there, who are called out in the roll call.

“Corporal Atwill, died on the field of honor, sir!” the shout comes at the start. In this case, by a keydet with a unique connection.

“I’ve been able to have that honor for the past four years," says Henry Atwill, a graduating First Classman. "This is my last time, and it’s been quite fun.”

Because Henry Atwill’s family has a legacy here.

“My uncle," he says, listing VMI alumni, "My grandfather, my great-grandfather, and then my great-great-great uncle that I was yelling out for in the New Market parade.”

That would be Corporal Sam Atwill, who, as they say, died on the field of honor.

“I got used to hearing Corporal Atwill every time I walked by somebody calling my name out,” today's Atwill says.

But, despite his unique connection, he is eager for tomorrow’s graduation.

“I’m glad I got through it," he says. "It’s tough, but I think I’m all for the better.”