VMI Cyber Corps

Alumni and Friends of VMI:

Cyber Corps Numbers: 460

Welcome New Pittsburgh Area Alums and Friends: The Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alumni Association recently held its annual picnic. When we mailed the invitations to local alums, we asked them to provide e-mail addresses. I've added those addresses to our distribution list.

An Education for Our Time - Josiah Bunting, III: As I was leaving the luncheon the other day at the National Press Club (the one during which Gen Bunting was the speaker), I passed by a table where they were handing out a paperback book with a green cover. Having no idea of the subject matter, but always looking for something to read on business flights, I politely took the one that was offered me and headed to the airport. In the cab ride to the airport I began scanning the book and became hooked. An Education for Our Time is a book put together (edited??) by Gen Bunting. It primarily consists of a series of letters/instructions from John Adams. Mr. Adams, who died in May, left his entire estate of $985 million for the purpose of establishing a new college in Wyoming. His letters explain his vision for this college and his directions for it in terms of: 1) the college's mission, 2) who the students will be, 3) how the students will live, 4) what they should learn and 5) who should lead them.

Gen Bunting is the only "academic" on the college's board at this point. The book includes the portion of a letter to Gen Bunting from a board member. It reads, in part: ...You would be the only academic person on our board, at least at the beginning. The founder did not like academics - or, rather, thougth most of them ill-suited to the kind of education he had in mind. I mentioned your name to him only ten days before he died. He had no idea who you were, but when I mentioned VMI he said (this was on the phone) "Yes, that's good."

In reading about Mr. Adams' background, I have learned that he was a truly remarkable man. He was a patriot, a public servant, and an ardent student of history.

The copy of the book provided after the National Press Club luncheon is an uncorrected page proof. Publication date is listed as August 3, 1998. Price is $24.95. The cover of the book indicates that you cover obtain more information by contacting Sandy Callender at Regnery Publishing (202) 216-0601, ext. 488, Washington, DC. I encourage all to read this book.

Speaking of Gen Bunting's Speech: I spoken with those who were not in attendance for Gen Bunting's speech at the National Press Club, but who did obtain the transcript off the internet. All applaud his remarks. A number of folks have indicated that they have ordered the videotape.

Remember Sgt. Hockaday?: For those who remember Marine Sgt. Hockaday while at VMI, the following article recently appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Drilling Fields / Sergeant major uses Marine experience to assist VMI cadets

Monday, June 15, 1998

Times-Dispatch Staff Writer


The rumor around Virginia Military Institute is that school Sgt. Maj. Al Hockaday holds the Marine Corps record for pull-ups. A more graphic yarn has it that, in Vietnam, he killed six enemy soldiers in the pitch dark with nothing but a shovel.

"Man," Hockaday said with a laugh, "that kind of stuff just goes around."

Understandably so. The Marine Corps veteran can be an imposing and intimidating figure to the fresh-faced kids who arrive at the military school. With his barrel chest and rigid biceps, Hockaday crosses the campus in brisk, measured strides, his Marine uniform pressed to the snappiest degree of crispness, his belt buckle gleaming, the click of his heels on the sidewalk echoing off the barracks walls.

Everything about him screams: boot-camp drill instructor.

"When you see him standing under one arch, you go under the other arch, because you know he's going to look you over," said cadet Parker Reeves, 18, of Roanoke. "The way he walks around, it's like 'another beautiful day in the Corps' to him. But I guess that's what we need around here."

Hockaday, 55, spent 30 years as a Marine, winning two Purple Heart medals for injuries he suffered as a sniper in Vietnam. He was also a drill instructor at the Marines' Officer Candidate School at Quantico. But cadets know little of his past, he said, because his job now is to help them with their lives, not tell stories from his own.

"I think of myself as the sergeant major to the corps of cadets and adviser to the commandant," he said. "What's important now is their lives, not what happened to me 30 years ago. They're the ones who are going to have the problems and obstacles to overcome. I've had a very exciting career, but now it's about them."

Hockaday, who looks 10 years younger than he is despite the gray in his mustache, has been VMI's sergeant major for five years. Outside on campus, he eyeballs cadets for sundry infractions; behind the doors of his office, surrounded by his Marine Corps flags and other leatherneck memorabilia, he offers them intimate advice on any conceivable problem.

Cadets say they can count on him for help, and for unfailing encouragement, as they move from freshmen "rats" to VMI graduates.

"In the [cadet] corps, we don't really have a role model to look up to, because people come and go," said cadet Gordon Overby, 20, of Marriottsville, Md. "But I'll always look up to him for what he's done. He's got that hard chest and he walks with pride, and he wants everybody to be that way."

Cadet Kim Herbert, 18, of Fairfax and one of the first females at VMI, said Hockaday's size is deceptive. "He's a big guy, but very approachable. I was referred to him because I got into trouble, and he advised me. He was really nice."

VMI's class of 1994 made him an "honorary brother rat," a distinction that Hockaday said choked him up. He never finished college himself.

But it was the desire for an education that pushed him toward the Marines, he said.

The year was 1960. Hockaday was sitting with friends one night in front of an abandoned church in Richmond's old Fulton Bottom neighborhood, where he and his 12 brothers and sisters grew up. As they sat and chatted, a Marine in dress blues walked by, his gold buttons gleaming under the lamplight.

"He said, 'You guys realize you could be spending your time better?' " Hockaday recalled.

Days later, Hockaday and his buddies went down to the recruitment station and took a test to enter the Marines. Hockaday figured a stint in the military could pay for college. He later showed up to be sworn in, only to find himself alone. "Where are the rest of the guys?" he asked. The recruiter first swore him in and then answered: "They didn't make it."

Told he would be a cook, Hockaday asked for another assignment, one better suited to his vision of Marines charging up hills and slithering through the underbrush. He was sent into the infantry.

He took to the gung-ho, Marine way of life -- a life of constant push-ups, pull-ups and other punishments -- and forgot about college.

Six years later, he found himself in Vietnam. There, working as a sniper in the jungles, waiting for a target to walk by, he said, he learned patience.

"Being a sniper has its moments of excitement," he said. "But the dull moments are the exciting moments. When you're waiting, just waiting."

It was also in Vietnam that he learned a lesson about human resilience. One day, he said, his superiors sent him out with orders to bring back a prisoner. He did. Spying a North Vietnamese soldier laying mines, he shot him in the hip and then began hustling the man back to camp, holding him by the collar. Unknown to Hockaday, the two were now walking through a minefield, and the North Vietnamese suddenly jumped on a nearby mine.

Hockaday awoke from the blast lying on his back, a pool of blood amassing on his shoulder, his left arm apparently gone. "I was lying on top of it," he recalled, "but I didn't know it. When they put me on that stretcher and my arm came out from under my back, that was exciting."

Hockaday pulled another tour of duty in Vietnam and suffered another injury. But between the two tours, he spent two years at Quantico, molding "kids" into Marine officers.

"At Quantico, I was in a position to ensure that the young men and women coming into the Marine Corps would become good leaders," he said. "There's not a lot of difference between the young men and women who walk through Jackson arch [at VMI] and those young men and women who went into the military.

"They come from every walk of life, from small farms and cities. They're Americans. They're looking for something to challenge them."

Hockaday first came to VMI in 1974, working as a gunnery sergeant in the Marines' ROTC program on campus. He taught cadets about military protocol and procedure, drilling and weaponry. After VMI came other Corps assignments, and he eventually rose to the rank of sergeant major, the highest ranking noncommissioned officer.

He returned to VMI briefly in the mid-1980s but didn't settle in for good until earlier this decade. He and his wife of more than 30 years, Ernestine, bought a home in Rockbridge County, and they opened two boutiques on Main Street in Lexington: The Shenandoah Attic and Victorian Parlor.

Hockaday helps with the businesses, but his joy, he said, is putting on his Marine uniform in the morning and going to VMI to motivate the cadets.

"I'm not in it for the money," he said. "I wish every man and woman in America could wake up and go to work as pleased with themselves as I do every morning. I love my work. When I was in the Marine Corps I loved my work."

Cadet Jochen Dunville, 21, of Roanoke, said Hockaday tries to boost morale and motivate students by the sheer force of his enthusiasm.

"He tries to extend that to everybody," Dunville said. "He's extremely professional. He definitely walks with pride."

Where Was This Guy When I Was At VMI?: Not really a VMI story, but we call all imagine the impact this guy had on Lexington, VA!!

Sour fate for town sugar daddy / Lexington's mysterious big spender jailed; he's drug fugitive

Thursday, June 11, 1998


Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

LEXINGTON -- The most popular man in Lexington these days is now in jail.

Before police hauled him away in handcuffs and charged him with dealing drugs, however, Eric Carl Ellers became this city's springtime Santa Claus, a sunshine sugar daddy who passed out $20 and $50 bills as if they burned his palm to hold them.

In retrospect, perhaps his mistake was paying $1,200 for the haircut. Or maybe it was buying dinner for the elderly couple because he liked their shirts.

"For a guy who did what we say he did, he sure didn't keep a low profile," said Lexington police officer Gary Coleman.

Whatever the cause of his downfall, it is Ellers' swift ascendancy to popularity that has this Shenandoah Valley city talking.

Ellers blew into Lexington Sunday, May 31, a mysterious stranger who dipped into his pockets with near-reckless abandon. He stood on street corners and peeled off big bills to hand to passers-by, according to some accounts.

He sat at the end of the bar and bought rounds of drinks for anybody who would sit and listen to him spin tales about nothing, according to Toye Entsminger, a waitress at the Palms restaurant.

He hit all the local bars and eateries -- Palms, Spanky's, the Stair Case -- and dropped $20 bills on the tables for waitresses. He gave one young woman $50 to hold his keys for a minute. He gave another man $150 to drive him around town for a while.

By June 3, the day he was arrested, his generosity had become legendary, a byword among the shopkeepers and busboys of Lexington. "We all wanted to wait on him," said Entsminger, who picked up $100 in tips from the talkative stranger.

Ellers gave a hairdresser $1,000 for a buzz cut, then threw in a tip of $200. The hairdresser told police that she saw lots of money, perhaps thousands of dollars, in the small canvas bag that he carried everywhere.

Ellers also showed up at the upscale clothing store owned by the mayor's wife and put down $400 for expensive shirts, a few ties and a sporty hat, which he wore around town with the tag still dangling off the brim. He told the mayor he loved Lexington and would like to be "mayor for a day."

"I told him there are some days I'd be glad for him to be mayor all the time," Mayor "Buddy" Derrick said. "He was a real friendly guy. But a bit too effervescent."

Short and balding, garrulous and articulate, the casually dressed Ellers remained a mystery to all who met him. At one point he said he was a professional gambler from Colorado. Others heard he had won a lottery somewhere.

"He was a colorful character," Entsminger said. "He'd buy drinks, and he was very loud, but he didn't like crowds because he couldn't be the center of attention. That's when he'd move on to another restaurant."

Coleman said Ellers, 38, wanted to treat others the way he wanted to be treated himself.

"He said he wanted to be generous, and that if he was generous everybody would be generous to him," Coleman said. "I asked him, 'How many people have given you $1,200 for a haircut?' "

Wednesday night of last week, though, Ellers' generosity reached its limit, according to police: He tried to crash a Washington and Lee University graduation party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and became rowdy when refused admittance.

"There were seven or eight to 12 W&L students out front on the porch, and he said he was going to kick all of their [behinds],"Coleman said. "They said, 'Fat chance.' At least that's what they told us they said. Who knows what they really said to him."

Police were called in, and they eventually caught up with Ellers at the Stair Case, a bar near Washington and Lee. A quick check showed he was a fugitive from New Mexico, a Santa Fe resident wanted for allegedly trafficking in cocaine and illegal mushrooms.

In the trunk of his car, a rented $18,000 Taurus, Lexington police said they found 28 pounds of marijuana, neatly divided into two bales.

He has been charged with transporting more than five pounds of marijuana into Virginia with the intent to distribute it, and possession with intent to distribute. He is being held without bond while Lexington and New Mexico officials figure out who will try him first.

By the time the Lexington police got to it, Ellers' little canvas bag held $340. Coleman said there's no way to know how much cash Ellers threw around before his arrest.

Entsminger showed little surprise at Ellers' arrest.

"We knew there was a story there. We just didn't know what it was."

Incidentally, police don't know yet whether they'll try to retrieve the money -- possibly thousands of dollars -- that Ellers gave away. They're not sure his generosity constitutes a crime.

Hey, that's it for this week. Happy Fathers' Day.

Yours in the Spirit,
RB Lane '75

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