For the fall march, the entire freshman class and its training cadre undertake a 13-mile hike from the still-lived-in Caldwell homestead, crossing Sinking Creek Mountain and ending just past Caldwell Fields, a state campground named for Addison and his brothers. This first part of the annual march is a major milestone in the freshman experience and signifies the end of the red phase of cadet training and the beginning of the white phase.
The second part of the march, which takes place each April, is the capstone for the freshman cadet experience. The freshman class and its chain of command start from where they left off in the fall and hike another 13 miles over Brush Mountain and back to campus. The event culminates with their "turning" ceremony on the Upper Quadrangle, where they meet the upper-class cadets on a first-name basis for the first time.
When alumni were first offered the chance to sponsor a freshman cadet on the Caldwell March, the response far exceeded expectations. A sponsorship costs $500 and each sponsored cadet wears a nametag bearing the name of the sponsoring alum. If a donation is made in memory of a friend or family member, the tag bears the name of that individual.
For the 2007 spring march on April 14, generous alumni sponsored 81 cadets, raising more than $40,000. In addition to providing monetary support to our operations and scholarship accounts, the sponsorship program provides moral support for our freshmen. When the sponsored cadets received their nametags, they were touched that so many people cared about them, both individually and collectively as the Class of 2010. To these freshmen, wearing the nametags is a symbol of the alumni marching with them the entire way. Following the march, all sponsoring alumni receive a thank-you note from the cadet, the nametag that the cadet wore in their honor, a 5x7 photo of the sponsored group, a close-up of their cadet, and a Caldwell pin, which is a small lapel pin adorned with "VPI 1872."
It is undeniable that the effort has been a tremendous success. Since the inception of the sponsorship program, generous alumni have contributed more than $700,000 to sponsor 141 cadets. This initiative both gives our alumni a direct investment in a member of the freshman class and extends the legacy of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets by providing visible evidence that our alumni care about the leaders of tomorrow.
Col. Rock Roszak '71, USAF (Ret.), is the alumni director for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.