I am a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what possessed me to pick that school to attend. It was about as far away from my home in California as I could get. It represented the epitome of military discipline and Southern culture – both completely alien to me. But in August of 1987, I arrived at The Citadel and managed to survive the ordeal, emerging in May of 1991 with both the highly coveted Citadel Ring and a bachelors degree.
During my four years at The Citadel, there was one gentleman who stood out larger than life… and that was Lieutenant Colonel Harvey M. Dick, Assistant Commandant of Cadets. His primary responsibility was to oversee the discipline of the Corps of Cadets, a task he carried out firmly and fairly. He had a booming, slightly higher pitched voice that carried a great distance. He had the tenancy to refer to any cadet who was doing something wrong as a “Delbert Dumbass”.
The Citadel is not an easy place. Beyond the academic rigors and outside the classroom the rules of conduct and appearance were strict. Free time very limited. Failure to comply with the rules resulted in swift punishment that was realized through the awarding of “Tours” or “Confinements”. A Tour was one-hour, at a specially designated time (mainly during the weekend), were a cadet walks back and forth across the barracks with an M-14 rifle in silence. A Confinement was an hour spent at your desk studying. Both Tours and Confinements were performed in uniform with brass belt buckle and black low-quarter shoes shined to a brightness known as “blitzed”. Until a cadet had finished serving the required Tours or Confinements he (and I say he because while I was there it was all-male) was restricted to campus (a dry campus containing little entertainment). While on restriction, a cadet had to sign in on the hour, every hour during non-class days from Reveille to Taps (assuming they were not actually walking Tours or sitting Confinements at the time). If, for some reason, a cadet failed to report on time…. the punishments increased.
To be fair – there were no surprises as to what a cadet could or could not do. So when LTC Dick meted out punishment, it never really came as unexpected. LTC Dick believed that if you did the crime, you do the time and that you’d be a better man for it. If you really believed that there had been a miscarriage of justice, you could go to LTC Dick’s office, plead your case, and beg for mercy. If your argument was unique, original, or really compelling he may have let you slide. Otherwise you were told to “About Face” and hit the highway.
Despite his role as the senior disciplinarian, he was beloved by the entire Corps of Cadets. At football games (which was mandatory attendance for all cadets (in uniform too)) a cheer often went up where half the cadets yelled “HARVEY” and then the other half would yell “DICK”…. over and over until he would stand up and everyone would cheer. Another football favorite was when the band played the theme from Hawaii Five-O and LTC Dick would come down to the sideline and stand on a surf board that was held aloft by the male cheerleaders. He was really the only senior officer we ever saw who actually displayed any sense of humor.
From a discipline standpoint, I did okay. I never got a Tour but did sit a number of Confinements. I successfully avoided any major trouble and with that managed to avoid LTC Dick. Until May about five days before graduation……
To make a long story short, back in March I had brought a bottle of whiskey into the barracks and had placed it in an unused set of drawers in my room which I shared with another senior. The room was designed to fit four, but there were only two of us – we were seniors and got the extra space for that reason. Possession of alcohol on campus had just been changed from a punishment of 120 Tours to expulsion just three or four months earlier. Here is the kicker – I forgot about the bottle. We had made it to May, finals complete and preperations made for walking across the stage to get our diplomas. At the end of the year the cadet company commander and TAC officer (an active duty Captain) conduct an inventory of all the furniture in each room. I was out with my fellow seniors in downtown Charleston drinking beer when the TAC officer discovered the whiskey bottle in the drawer. Upon my return to campus I was informed what had happened and told that I was restricted to campus until further notice. My heart dropped through the floor. Five days before graduation. My parents and realtives were coming out from California. Punishment for possession of alcohol was expulsion. The TAC officer came and talked to me to tell me there would be a Diciplinary Board that would meet to review my violation of the rules. At this point, I did not know where to turn. A classmate recommended I go see LTC Dick. I went to his house and he brought me in and sat me down. He listened to my story, never blinking, stairing straight through me. He told me to go back to my room and wait for my TAC officer to tell me what would be my fate.
They let me off the hook. I was told that had I “lawyered up”, finding the bottle would have been considered “illegal search and seizure”. Knowing that all of us cadets have no expected right to privacy (I had taken a Constitutional Law class afterall), I knew they had just given me a pass. But I can tell you that for my few remaining days at The Citadel, I walked on pins and needles… amazed when I was handed my diploma but a better man for the lesson I learned.
In hindsight, I believe LTC Dick knew that I was going to graduate when I went to see him. He rightly let me stew in not knowing my future for a few additional and painful hours to let the lesson sink in.
LTC Dick gave up his role as assistant commandant in 1993 but continued to remain deeply involved in The Citadel up until his death this past Saturday. In my association with the military since my days at The Citadel, I can’t think of an officer that I have had a higher degree of respect and esteem for. I hope Saint Peter remembered to shine up his halo before LTC Dick arrived… or ol’ Saint Pete will be walking Tours!