It was the weekend after Mother's Day and time for the annual Spring Greenbrier Alumni weekend in Wintergreen, Virginia, and "Greenbrier Day" at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA). "Greenbrier Day" is to honor Greenbrier Military School and its Alumni who provide the prestigious Greenbrier Scholarship for a FUMA Cadet each year. This year's gathering was truly magnificent and probably the best ever. The weather was gorgeous and driving over to Wintergreen was pure joy for the writer. We came out of Springtime in Ohio with the Dogwood and Rhododendron in bloom, then drove through beautiful, green West Virginia. The mountains were stunning in the early mist that hung over the dark hollows and floated gently above the muddy Ohio, Little Kanawha, Pocatalico, Kanawha, New, and Greenbrier Rivers.
As we drove East on Friday, May 14, 2010, toward the early dawn, the sun came up into nearly clear skies and the mist lifted gently as we breezed through the Appalachians on I-64, past Beckley, past Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs toward old Virginia and the fabled Blue Ridge Parkway. Driving North along the Parkway revealed vista after vista of God's artwork for as far as we could see. We got off at Reed's Gap and it only took about a mile to get to the famous Wintergreen Mountain Ski Resort with its rustic lodge and striking condos lining the cliff on top the mountain. We would stay in one of those magnificent condos for the next three nights at a very reasonable price and enjoy the splendor of the Virginia mountains and valleys below. From up about 4,000 ft., you could see the barely perceptible Lake Monocan far below near where our own Charlie Duncan '56 (Rose Marie Collins) and Bob Carlisle '56 (Inez) live in the up-scale Wintergreen community. The view from the mountaintop is really up there and actually looks down on the ski runs. But would you believe there is a golf course up there on the very top. Yes, Devil's Knob Golf Course is playable when the mountaintop is not sitting in a cloud. A better choice is the very interesting, championship Stony Creek Golf and Country Club course near Charlie's and Bob's homes. The Country Club has a wonderful restaurant and lounge, and large veranda. On Friday evening, we would dine there as part of a group of 18 that came early to this annual event. Rose Marie's Grandson Greg Collins, an exceptional musician, was there with his lovely wife, Catherine, playing and singing from the corner of our area of the restaurant. Our Greenbrier people had taken up a whole wing of the restaurant. Our favorite waitress, Cici Banks, got us all drinks and with a toast to “Greenbrier Forever”, we got the Spring GMS Alumni Wintergreen Weekend underway and had a wonderful social evening with old and dear friends.
Saturday morning would normally have been filled with golf or tennis, but this Saturday we skipped it for breakfast with Rose Marie and friends at Charlie’s beautiful home. During the day, we discussed many things relevant to GMSAA, the new Greenbrier Forever Society (GFS) organization, and the upcoming 200th Anniversary of Greenbrier Military School, the second oldest military school in the history of the United States of America.
Saturday evening brought the annual dinner party hosted by Charlie and Rose Marie on the Stoney Creek Country Club veranda. We were again privileged to have Rose Marie's Grandson, Greg Collins, for exceptional entertainment throughout the evening. Greg provided beautiful live instrumental background music during dinner, and sang and played guitar after dinner to the delight of everyone. Guests for dinner numbered approximately forty (40) including Faculty Guests from FUMA, headed by Lt. General John Jackson, President of FUMA, and Mrs. Barbara Jackson, and Colonel Bobby Cobb, FUMA Executive Director of Development, and Mrs. Henri Cobb, and the Outgoing and Incoming “Greenbrier Forever Cadets”, Cadet Captain Albert Yeh and Cadet Sergeant Blake Sundel respectively who will carry with them the “Greenbrier Spirit” the rest of their lives. General Jackson did the honors of asking God’s blessings for the food and fellowship, and Grace on this event and everyone present. It was, as usual, a delightful evening and just a wonderful social gathering enjoyed by all.
On Sunday, it was "Greenbrier Day" at FUMA, and some of us started the day with breakfast with Charlie and Rose Marie. The superb, down home, breakfast preparation by Rose Marie was ably assisted by our own “Greenbrier Forever Society (GFS)” officers, Vice President Mary Ellen DePue and Secretary/Treasurer Phyliss Stinnette, plus Anne Taylor (Joe’s wife), Carol Miller (Deak’s Significant Other) and Anna Laura Shrewsbury (Tom’s wife). After breakfast, we formed a caravan and drove over to Fork Union and the campus of FUMA where we joined other GMSAA members who had either stayed overnight in Fork Union or just drove in for “Greenbrier Day”. After signing in and getting our name tags, we were treated to an excellent lunch in the Estes Dining Hall with the FUMA Faculty and Cadets. After lunch, we all gathered in the Chapel for a briefing by Lt. Gen. John Jackson and his Staff. We were also entertained by the FUMA Cadet Choral Group who sang several numbers for us and they were excellent. After the briefing, we all gathered on the steps of Hatcher Hall for group photos, then shortly after that the Band marched into the Oval Area and the Cadet Battalion formed up by Company around the Flag Oval for inspection and roll call to prepare for the afternoon Parade. By the way, plans are underway to install a Greenbrier Military School flag on the Oval.
After the pre-parade ceremony and Officer’s Call, we all headed down to the Parade Field for the Parade. Cadets rolled down the brass cannon that would be fired to signal the start of the Parade of the entire Student Body (both schools). High School and Postgraduates formed the Upper School and the Grades 6 through 8 formed the Middle School. All GMS people would sit on the front row of the grand stands and when the parade was ready to start, we would be invited to line the fence stretching off the Reviewing Stand and have the honor of "taking the Parade". Immediately prior to the Parade, we placed our GMS Banner on the Reviewing Stand Podium facing the grand stands. Lt. Gen. Jackson and his Flag Bearer (three Stars) would march in and be announced while taking the Reviewing Stand. The Public Address Announcer would then announce to the crowd that this day is "Greenbrier Day" at FUMA in honor of Greenbrier Military School and Welcome the Alumni of Greenbrier Military School, then he introduced and read the biography of our representative on the Reviewing Stand for this year. It was Captain Bob Gamba '56, U.S. Navy-Retired (former GMS Cadet Officer on the Battalion Staff) who would "Take the Parade" on the reviewing stand with Lt. Gen. Jackson, and, later go down on the field to Congratulate the Outgoing and Incoming Greenbrier Cadets who were brought front and center, and officially transfer the scholarship from the old to the new. The Greenbrier Cadet wears the Green & White Citation Cord of Greenbrier Military School on his left shoulder for the duration of his scholarship year. His name is also permanently inscribed on a plaque outside the Commandant’s Office. The Greenbrier scholarship is the most prestigious and sought after scholarship in the history of the school. It goes to an individual who meets very strict criteria, and we are very proud to be able to furnish that fully-funded scholarship.
With the firing of the Cannon, the Parade gets underway. The long grey line marched into the field. It was regrettable that the FUMA Bulldog Mascot, whose presence was always near the cannon, could no longer be with us as he had passed away earlier in the year. With the Battalion formed, they had Attendance Reports and Officers Call, and brought the two Greenbrier Cadets Front & Center for the Citation Cord transfer. Captain Bob Gamba and Lt. General John Jackson stepped down on the field to effect that transfer. With the command "Pass In Review", all Greenbrier people manning the rail would "Take the Parade". The Parade was magnificent, and after the Parade, Lt. Gen. Jackson escorted Captain Gamba to meet and greet the FUMA Cadet Officers.
We returned to Wintergreen after the Parade. Others who had driven in for the day, returned home. It was another of a long list of wonderful "Greenbrier Days" at Fork Union Military Academy and you all are invited to join us next year. Plan to be there and mark it on your calendar now. It will be the first weekend after Mother's Day (May 14 & 15, 2011). Bring your family and friends. Come early on Friday and join us for dinner in Wintergreen, if you can. The entire weekend is a truly great experience and you will be glad you were there. Contact Charlie Duncan '56 [434-361-1531 (VA Home), or e-mail email@example.com ] for Accommodations Information and please make reservations well in advance due to the many school graduations in the area at that time of year.