If you walked through the woods and managed to get past a swamp where I’m sure Bigfoot and his buddies hung out, I could be on the golf course at Marion Military Institute, as the crow flies, in about a half-mile.
I preferred the old road into town that took about a mile, and aside from that time a friend decided to pick up a garter snake while riding his bike and immediately regretted it, it was the safer route.
Having a family that was rooted in the then-private military school (9th grade through junior college at the time), I felt as if it was as much my school as the cadets that came from Owensboro, Kentucky, Waycross, Georgia, south Louisiana, or other parts of the country.
Being the baby of four, I heard about my father’s playing and coaching days at MMI, watched my brothers go there, eagerly attending their games and being forced to watch them march once or twice a year. My sister was even a student there with one of the first classes of females in the seventies.
I loved MMI, loved everything it stood for... only I never attended it. Military or any form of it was not for me. I could not see myself making sure my belt buckle and shoes were polished, ironed my daily attire right, wore my hat properly, or saluted the correct men (or women). I would have had more demerits that our national debt has dollars.
But... I’m glad we had people that could do it.
I left Alabama after my sophomore year of high school and who knows if I would have ever been persuaded to continue the family tradition – I doubt it – but I am as proud of the fact that school continues today as I am with anything at either of the two high schools I attended. Today, as part of the Alabama Community College System, it is just a two-year college.
Some great leaders came from MMI. A friend’s son attended MMI, graduated something like No. 2 at the Air Force Academy and debriefed Condoleezza Rice each morning during the President George W. Bush administration. During the Gulf War, I watched from another state as a cable news network profiled the tiny school and mentioned all of the great leaders that had come from there.
I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me in various towns and told me how MMI changed their lives... for the better. It may not have been for everyone, but maybe it should have been for more. Just because my belt buckle isn’t polished – and trust me, it’s not -- don’t mistake that as a sign of disrespect to our veterans.