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Alumni and Friends of VMI:

Seen in the Electronic Turnouts: I ran across this in the Electronic Turnouts. While not about a VMI grad, I'm sure it could apply to scores of Institute grads. Thanks to Dick Knight '70 for this posting.

Fri Nov 19 17:50:40 1999
I spent all day yesterday in Shelbyville, Tennessee and at a little country church between Shelbyville and Tullahoma, on U.S. 41 (Alt). BG Austin C. Shofner, USMC (Ret'd), died on Sunday, and he and I (through his 4 sons) had gotten to be friends over the years.
Gen. Shofner played tackle on Tennessee's great teams in the mid-30's (under Gen. Neyland, USMA Aug. '17) and, because of his high academic standing, was commissioned in the Regular Marine Corps in 1937 at the age of 21.

In late 1941, Gen. Shofner--then a captain--was stationed in the Philippines and took part in the gallant defense of Corregidor, where he was taken prisoner. He survived the Bataan Death March and was imprisoned in the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao for 11 months, until leading a breakout with 11 other men.

Gen. Shofner and his small party evaded the Japanese for 35 days until they finally made their way into friendly lines (Filipino partisans). Although the men who escaped with Gen. Shofner were sent back to the states, Gen. Shofner remained in the Philippines to fight with the guerillas. In due course, he recovered from the starvation and beatings inflicted on him by the Japanese, asked for a command, and was given a battalion, which he lead onto the rocky shores of Peleliu. He was badly wounded.

Recovering from his wounds, Gen. Shofner asked for command, and was given another battalion, which he lead during the assault on Okinawa. At the War's end, he was 28 years-old.

In the meantime and unknown to him, Life Magazine made Gen. Shofner the subject of a cover story in 1943 or 1944. It was his escape from Davao and the Intelligence Report he filed that prompted the United States to elevate the Pacific Theater to co-equal status with Europe: Both would be #1 priorities. [To be con'd]

Fri Nov 19 18:06:16 1999
Gen. Shofner [con'd from above] Gen. Shofner retired from the Marine Corps in 1959. He moved back to Shelbyville and into is ancestral home.
At the time of Gen. Shofner's death five days ago, he was Tennessee's most decorated veteran: Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, and so on. And yet, while he was fiercely proud of the Corps and would let you know in an instant that he was a Marine, one would never have taken him for the hero that he was: He was modest to a fault.

As we left the funeral home yesterday morning for the 10-mile drive to the Shofner Lutheran Church, which his forbears founded 200 years ago, Highway #41 (the "Gen. Austin Shofner, USMC, Highway") was lined with spectators of every type, each showing his or her respect. An elderly black gentleman caught my eye: Dressed in overalls, he stood by the side of the road, at rigid attention, with a hand over his heart. During the long funeral procession, the oncoming traffic was pulled to the side of the road, not moving, out of respect for the old warrior.

When the service began, an active duty BG in the USMC announced from the pulpit that the Commandant had ordered every U.S. flag at every Marine station, world-wide, lowered to half-mast at 11 A.M. Central Time. Following burial in the graveyard next to the church (and near all his ancestors, going back to the Revolution), a bugler played Taps. When he finished, on another hill, about a half-mile away, a bugler played Reveille. "O, Death, where is thy victory?" Dick Knight '70
VMI Basketball: The Keydets are 2 - 0 after an 85 - 38 win this afternoon over Warren Wilson. First big test will be tomorrow against UVa. Tipoff is 7:00 PM.

Wednesday, November 17, 1999
Big center adds 'inside presence'
VMI pins hopes on post Mann

The Keydets open the season at midnight
Thursday against NAIA Southern Virginia.


LEXINGTON -- VMI is counting on a big man to make a big difference to its basketball team this season.

Eric Mann, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound center who was redshirted last season because of knee surgery, should give the Keydets the inside force they lacked last season.

"Our big-man game will be as good as it has been since I've been here, and that's been a missing ingredient," said VMI coach Bart Bellairs, entering his sixth season at the school. "[Mann] gives us a shot-blocker and a legitimate inside presence."

Mann, a fourth-year junior, played two games last year before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in early December. He averaged 6.4 points and 7.3 rebounds and blocked 47 shots as the starting center two seasons ago.

VMI was last in the Southern Conference in rebounding margin last season, when it was outrebounded by almost nine rebounds per game. The Keydets went 12-15 overall and tied for third in the Southern Conference's six-team North Division with a 9-7 league mark. They lost in the first round of the league tournament.

The Keydets will open the season Thursday night with a Midnight Madness game against Southern Virginia, an NAIA school from Buena Vista. Fans will be admitted to Cameron Hall at 11 p.m. Thursday, with the game tipping off at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The return of Mann will allow 6-7 Nick Richardson (9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) to shift from center to power forward, with 6-3 Aaron Demory (9.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) moving from power forward to small forward. Adam Trombley, a 6-9 freshman from Fork Union Military Academy, will see action off the bench.

The frontcourt players won't be starved for attention.

"In both our exhibition games, we did a lot better job than we have in the past of getting the basketball inside. In order to really be a presence, you've got to have a little bit more of that or else you've got to be shooting the ball extremely hot," Bellairs said.

Mann said: "I think we'll be real good in the post. I'm just looking forward to playing again."

VMI was picked to finish last in its division in the Southern Conference's preseason media poll. League coaches picked VMI fifth in their poll.

The Keydets lost two starters -- All-Southern Conference guard Jason Bell (league-best 18.9 ppg) and forward Matt Matheny (9.6 ppg). Backup center Zach Batte has transferred to a junior college.

Andre Quarles (8.9 ppg) returns at point guard. The new starting off-guard is Richard Bruce (4.9 ppg).

The Keydets expect a more balanced attack this year.

Bell "was the go-to guy for us last year, but we don't really need a go-to guy that's going to put up 19 points a game. We have a lot of guys that can put up 10 or more points," Quarles said.

VMI's nonleague schedule has some intriguing games. The Keydets will visit Notre Dame on Dec. 18 and Florida on Dec. 28, and will meet four of their intrastate rivals -- road games with Virginia (Sunday) and Virginia Commonwealth (Dec. 21) and home games with Virginia Tech (Dec. 6) and Old Dominion (Dec. 8). The highlight for the players figures to be a trip to Honolulu for Hawaii's Thanksgiving-weekend tournament.

Southern Virginia isn't the only easy mark on VMI's schedule. The Keydets will play host to Bellairs' alma mater, NAIA-member Warren Wilson College of Asheville, N.C., on Saturday. Another NAIA team, Bluefield, visits on Dec.1. Division III Ferrum drops by the following day.


Southern Virginia, 12:01 a.m. late Thursday/early Friday; Warren Wilson, 1 p.m. Saturday; at Virginia, 7 p.m. Sunday; Oral Roberts in Hawaii tournament, midnight Nov. 26; Hawaii or William & Mary, Nov. 28; Bluefield, 7 p.m. Dec. 1; Ferrum, 7 p.m. Dec. 2; Va. Tech 7 p.m. Dec. 6; Old Dominion, 7 p.m. Dec. 8; at Notre Dame, 2 p.m. Dec. 18; at VCU, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21; at Florida, noon Dec. 28; at UNC-Greensboro, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4; College of Charleston, 1 p.m. Jan. 8; at Chattanooga, 7 p.m. Jan. 10; Citadel, 4 p.m. Jan. 15; at Appalachian State, 7 p.m. Jan. 17; at Davidson, 7 p.m. Jan. 22; UNC-Greensboro, 7 p.m. Jan. 24; East Tenn. State, 1 p.m. Jan. 29; at Ga. Southern, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31; Western Carolina, 1 p.m. Feb. 5; at Wofford, 7 p.m. Feb. 7; at ETSU, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12; App. State, 7 p.m. Feb. 14; at Western Carolina, 7 p.m. Feb. 19; Davidson, 7 p.m. Feb. 21; Furman, 1 p.m. Feb. 26; Southern Conference tournament in Greenville, S.C., March 2-5.
Thursday, November 18, 1999
Keydets sign sweet recruit in basketball


VMI hopes its latest basketball recruit has a shot as sweet as his hometown's biggest export.

Radee Skipworth of Hershey (Pa.) High School said he has signed with VMI. Skipworth, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound forward, averaged 17 points and eight rebounds last season.

Skipworth said he also received scholarship offers from La Salle, Drexel and Rider, but chose VMI because he liked its "structured environment."

Skipworth is VMI's second recruit of the fall signing period, joining forward Jason Conley of Millersburg (Ky.) Military Academy.
VMI Firefighters:

Friday, November 19, 1999

Fire breaks VMI cadets out of barracks

School's firefighting detail gives helping hand
in controlling this week's local forest fire.


For $6.65 an hour and a chance to flee the barracks for a while, you can get some Virginia Military Institute cadets to do about anything -- even suck smoke on the line of a 1,000-acre forest fire.

Eighteen VMI cadets, all members of the school's volunteer firefighting detail, were among those who patrolled the fire line during the windy Tuesday night when the Fort Lewis Mountain forest fire escaped the clutches of firefighters and raged out of control again.

"We caught a pretty wild night," said Paul Staton, the cadet in charge of the detail.

The cadets' job from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday was to patrol the firebreak and keep the fire from crossing it by stamping out sparks and shoveling dirt on spot fires.

High winds blew cinders across the break all night, Staton said.

"It's a little dangerous," he said. "You have to know what you're doing pretty much."

First-timers have to rely on all they learned in videotapes and during two days of training by the Virginia Department of Forestry that focuses on containing a fire with a rake, a shovel and an axe.

"It's hard to fit firefighting into everybody's schedule up here," Staton said, but the detail responds quickly when needed by the forestry department. The members become temporary state employees.

The full-time firefighters seem to appreciate the help.

"They tell us that they're glad that we're there," Staton said. "We picked up the night shift the other night and they were pretty happy about that."

Staton, a 21-year-old senior majoring in civil engineering, got his start on the detail when his older brother recruited him as a sophomore. He helped on a fire on Afton Mountain that year and was hooked.

"It gets the adrenaline running," he said. "You get a good respect for fire."

The detail has been around at VMI since at least 1950, according to VMI spokesman Mike Strickler. He wasn't sure of the group's origin, but said its mission is in line with the "citizen-soldier" concept VMI tries to instill in its cadets.

"We prepare the kids to be active participants in their communities and to help others," he said.

As an outdoorsman, Staton also likes the idea of protecting the woods.

"It makes me feel good," he said. "I feel like I'm giving back to the forest."

That's it for this week. A Happy Thanksgiving to all. We truly have much for which to be thankful.

Yours in the Spirit,
RB Lane '75

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