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The Virginia Military Institute, or VMI, was founded in Lexington, Virginia, in 1839 as a training school for the state’s militia forces and armory for the militia’s weapons. It soon became a well-known academy for training young men in a martial setting. With its commitment to rigorous academics, discipline, and regimented lifestyle, VMI promised to break down all class barriers and prepare cadets for leadership roles, either in the U.S. military or in civilian pursuits. It is particularly well-known for its strict honor code, which demands expulsion for one violation. It is also famed for its reputation of dubbing incoming cadets “rats” and subjecting them to a brutal regimen of challenges and duties that instill VMI’s values of subordination, self-discipline, and commitment to excellence in ...

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