The Spirit of VMI Political Action Committee (SOVP) congratulates and recognizes the achievement of US Army 2nd Lt Herbert Brooks ‘23, of Halifax County, Virginia, who was selected by his classmates before graduation to receive the New Market Legacy Award.
Established by the class of 1964, the award is “presented to a Brother Rat of the graduating first class whose cadetship in the opinion of his or her Brother Rats is most reflective of the character, honor, and spirit of the 1864 New Market Corps of Cadets.” Inscribed on the award, a statuette of a New Market cadet, the citation reads: “In recognition of perseverance in the face of adversity, commitment to fulfill one’s duties, and selfless support of other cadets’ successes.”
In an ideal world, the race or gender of an awardee should not be of any special significance, but the SOVP welcomes this news as the most recent evidence that VMI is not – and has never been – systemically racist as claimed by the former governor of Virginia and the Washington Post.
VMI classes commending or voting black cadets to positions of leadership is nothing new. Brooks, who was a battalion commander and member of the track & field team, is the second black cadet to win his award in the past several years. Beginning with the first class to matriculate black cadets in 1968, there are numerous examples recognized by their peers and / or the administration for their leadership ability. The list includes a class president, vice presidents, honor court members, cadet captains and lieutenants, and a regimental commander, who went on to become a 4 star general in the US Air Force. All are representative of a history of black success at VMI.
VMI has always had an egalitarian and meritocratic inclination to promote cadets no matter their social class, race, or background. Yet it’s a special honor to be selected by one’s Brother Rats, who know you best, having endured in close association the very same rigors and continual stress of the Spartan lifestyle of strict discipline; while balancing the demands of the military, academic, and athletic training schedule.
The SOVP is heartened by the fact that the New Market Legacy Award still exists. We believe the personal qualities exemplified by the New Market cadets are inherent in all races and exhibited according to one’s individual character. It augurs well for the Institute to continue the award as it honors both the recipient and the New Market cadets. We’re confident there will be future minority awardees elected by their respective classes as further proof VMI is a place for everyone ready for the challenge.
The legacy of the battle of New Market is passed down from class to class and is integral to the culture and esprit de corps of VMI and its mission of producing citizen soldiers. There should be nothing controversial about celebrating the spirit of the New Market cadet in this manner since the cadets were fighting for their native states against an invading army, not for enmity toward a particular race.
The VMI website states “the measure of a college lies in the quality and performance of its graduates and their contributions to society.” We can be sure that 2nd Lt Herbert Brooks has joined the ranks of alumni from whom we can expect great things.
Founded in 2021, the Spirit of VMI PAC is a registered Virginia Political Action Committee whose purpose is to restore VMI’s reputation as an elite leadership institution.
Point of Contact: SOVP Communications Staff: [email protected]
Visit the SOVP website: https://thespiritofvmi.org