Pence Talks Defense At VMI

Pence Talks Defense At VMI

VICE PRESIDENT Mike Pence addresses the Virginia Military Institute corps of cadets at Cameron Hall. The masked cadets sat with one seat in-between each other as part of the school’s COVID-19 precautions. (Harrison M. Branham photo)

Pence Talks Defense At VMI

ABOVE, Vice President Mike Pence gestures to cadets in the audience following his speech at Cameron Hall at Virginia Military Institute. AT RIGHT, cadet Troy Smith ‘21, regimental commander, presents a gift of gratitude to Pence on behalf of the entire corps of cadets. (photos by Kelly Nye for VMI and Harrison M. Branham)

Pence Talks Defense At VMI
Pence Talks Defense At VMI

OSPREYS, one of which carried Vice President Pence, takes off from the parade ground following Pence’s visit to VMI last Thursday. (H. Lockwood McLaughlin photo for VMI)

Pence Talks Defense At VMI

CADETS exit Cameron Hall following the address by Vice President Mike Pence. (Harrison M. Branham photo)

Pence Talks Defense At VMI

A GROUP of residents participate in a protest prior to the vice president’s arrival at Cameron Hall. (Harrison M. Branham photo)

‘Trump Will Always Have Your Back,’ He Tells Cadets

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence thanked Virginia Military Institute cadets for their honorable service in an address made during his stop in Lexington last week.

Pence took the stage at Cameron Hall the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 10, before about 2,000 cadets, speaking on the topics of leadership and national defense.

“Honor is at the core of what you do,” Pence said at the start of his address. “And thanks to the extraordinary education and training you are learning here today, honor will be the central characteristic of who you become.”

The vice president was joined Thursday by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, both 1996 graduates of VMI. Their visit to VMI had been in the works for several months, according to school spokesman Col. Bill Wyatt.

The official party arrived at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport around 12:30 p.m. prior to the Lexington appearance. The vice president was originally set to arrive in town by aircraft on the VMI parade ground, but the weather forecast produced a change in plans.

Wyatt told The News-Gazette the school worked closely with the Secret Service to secure the area of the event, which included several road closures. Wyatt described security for Pence’s arrival as a “coordinated effort” between local agencies including the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office and Lexington, VMI and Virginia State police departments. Cameron Hall was closed to the public with limited seating that afternoon in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During his speech, the vice president said he was humbled to address cadets on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The tragic event, Pence said, would never be just a date on a calendar for Americans. Working as a U.S. congressman in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attacks, Pence reflected on a question his then-5-year old daughter Audrey asked him: “If we have to make a war, do you have to go?”

“It was in that moment, on that day, that I thought of those that did have to go,” Pence said, “and I’ve thought of them every day since.”

Generations of heroes, Pence continued, stepped up to serve in the war on terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There were heroes from VMI in that generation, many,” Pence said. “In fact, there would be 12 who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan … We will never forget or fail to honor the graduates of this institution and all of those who have served and fallen in the service of the United States of America.”

The president, Pence said, stands with and supports the armed forces.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be vice president to a president who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces and their families,” he said.

Pence went on to speak of the successes of the U.S. military under President Donald Trump, turning to pay increases for servicemen and women, reform at the Veterans Administration, budget increases for the Department of Defense, and the creation of a new military branch, the U.S. Space Force. President Trump, Pence argued, rebuilt a once hollowed-out American military during his time in office.

“We’ve made the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still,” Pence said. “All this matters because President Donald Trump and I know the truth of that ancient wisdom that if you want peace, prepare for war.”

Under the Trump administration, Pence said, America has found peace in strength where Trump has defended the country’s interest in global conflicts.

“Thanks to the president’s leadership, a more peaceful Middle East is within our sights, a more peaceful world is within our sights,” Pence said. “That’s a world in which brave young men and women like those gathered here will be called upon to maintain the peace, not contain the chaos.”

“In President Donald Trump, you have a commander-in-chief who will always have your back,” Pence continued. The vice president said President Trump reveres the men and women of the armed forces.

Pence’s visit to VMI followed a national news report at the beginning of the month which alleged the president had made disparaging remarks about U.S. military servicemen and women. According to multiple anonymous sources, The Atlantic reported accounts that the president asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, disparaged the intelligence of service members and used the terms “loser” and “sucker” to describe fallen military soldiers and veterans.

A number of protestors came together in Lexington in opposition of Pence’s appearance, with a small group forming in front of the entrance to Cameron Hall last Thursday. Signs of protestors included phrases: “Vets 4 Biden,” and “VMI [does not equal] ‘sucker’ and ‘loser.’”

A separate small group of local protestors gathered on the bridge over the Maury River that afternoon for the purpose of remembering lives lost to racial injustice, COVID-19 and military combat, as well as to celebrate veterans, active military service members and Black Lives Matter equality efforts.

To conclude his speech at Cameron Hall, Pence offered parting advice in leadership to VMI cadets, calling on all to learn humility, orient to authority, and practice self-control in the career paths they go on to choose.

“I leave here today confident that so long as America produces men and women like the cadets of VMI, men and women who are willing and able to stand up and defend our nation and build lives of consequences, I know the best days for America are yet to come,” Pence said in closing.

After his remarks, Pence met privately with a small group of cadets from his home state of Indiana, where he served as governor before his inauguration as vice president in 2017.

Pence and Secretary McCarthy then toured the George C. Marshall Museum, accompanied by VMI superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III. The official party left from the VMI parade ground in a MV-22 Osprey in the late afternoon, while several onlookers gathered on the balcony of Moody Hall to watch the vice president depart from Lexington.

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Latest articles