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  Brother Rat

written by Robert E. Matthews, '44

Dedicated to the memory of Earl A. Miller, '44

 “There is a destiny that makes us brothers-"
Flow these words from the poet’s pen;
Yet they carry an added meaning
To a special band of men.

For those who have walked the “rat line”;
For those who have worn the gray,
The word, “brother”, bears a moral
To others it will never convey.

Critics call the system archaic,
A practice long outmoded and worn;
With no place in the modern agenda
They hold the concept in scorn.

They say life’s meaning is changing
That you have to flow with the crowd;
The words “duty”, “honor”, “country”
Are but relics of the old and the proud.

History teaches a simple dictum,
A page from wisdom’s shelf;
One cannot lead others
Until one masters self.

This quality is not a given
That by wealth or birth is earned,
But the wise have heard the message;
It is a trait that can be learned.

The classrom, shed of comfort
Bears a Spartan ring;
“There is no royal road to knowledge”
Cautioned the tutor to the king.

The growth will come by inches
Through daily drill,
From the rigors of the system
Comes a tempering of the will.

Barracks, class and playing field
Each phase links the span;
A whole man is the harvest,
The offspring of the plan.

In the tradition of Cincinattus
Dropping plough to seize his shield;
Citizen soldiers have always mustered
Bearing honor’s sword to wield.

Cockpit, bridge and foxhole

Have proved the system’s worth,
From Chancellorsville to Normandy
And the corners of the earth.

But the acid test of product
Lies far from battle’s clime;
Where at hearthside, lab or workplace
Each meets the trials of his time.

With both man and nation
Self denial best gird our gait,
Lest a lapse to self indulgence
Draw us down to a Roman fate.

Beneath those turrets in the Blue Ridge
V.M.I marches to its creed,
Out of step with the fleeting fashions
But attuned with duty’s need.