Monday, December 3, 2012

Goodbye Linton Hall Military School (my last post?)

If this is not my last post, there will probably be only one or two more.

As 2012 draws to a close, I have decided to say goodbye to my blog about Linton Hall Military School. I will check in occasionally to look at comments on my blog and my Facebook account, "Linton Hall Cadet," but I plan to stop writing about Linton Hall.

Knowing what I know about myself, I am surprised I ended up writing so much. When I graduated, all I wanted to do was to put my years at Linton Hall Military School far behind me. I even wanted to burn all my old uniforms in the back yard, but my mother wouldn't let me. (A picture is worth a thousand words, and that mental image sums up my feelings about Linton Hall exactly.) After I left, I made no effort to stay in touch with either alumni or those who would be returning to Linton Hall, as doing so would have stirred up too many bad memories. I did not return to Linton Hall until around ten years later, for Military Day 1980. My next visit didn't happen until around twenty years after that, around the year 2000, when I happened to be driving on I-66 and impulsively took the still familiar exit for Route 29 and Linton Hall Road. It was Summer and school was not in session. I parked in front of the building and was about to get out of the car and ask at the office for permission to walk around, but was overcome by such a flood of memories that I started the car again and drove away.

I began this blog in March 2010, because there were certain things that had waited forty years to be said, and the opportunity of connecting with Linton Hall alumni had presented itself, thanks to the Internet and Facebook. I had read both Charles Carreon's memories and Augustus Cho's book, but felt I needed to add more.

I didn't intend to write so much about Linton Hall; I thought my first post would be my last, and the blog format was the easiest, quickest way I found at the time to post my memories. I didn't write my second entry until three months later, in June 2010, and my third until December, six months after that. Eventually I wrote three dozen posts, which were also shared as "notes" with alumni I found on Facebook. There are also two notes not published as blogs, because they deal with specific individuals, and I felt that it would be better to limit readership to alumni on Facebook only.

Although it's no secret that I didn't like Linton Hall Military School, and moreover that I did not and do not feel that such a regimented environment under the constant threat of excessive physical punishment was a positive experience, I have undertaken to present a balanced picture and not overlook the positive aspects (academics, friendships, camping and hiking.)

My comments generated a sometimes heated but generally polite discussion from other alumni. Although some see their experience at Linton Hall in a generally positive light, and some had a far, far worse time there than I did, facts are facts, and I have correctly reported what went on during the time there. Other alumni from the period while Linton Hall was still a military school, have confirmed what I have said about my experiences there.

Another alumnus, writing under the pen name "LHMS Cadet," also began writing a blog about his experiences there.  He was at Linton Hall longer than I was, and kept in touch with alumni, so he is better qualified to write about LHMS. He has promised to write a book about Linton Hall, and as soon as it is published I will end my silence to let both blog readers and Facebook friends know about it.

Interestingly, both Augustus Cho and "LHMS Cadet" were both at Linton Hall Military School during the time I was there. I can only imagine if the three of us had been put together in a room back then, and we had found the courage to reveal our thoughts about the school! Though Augustus Cho now sees his experience in a much more positive light than I do, I have found the facts in his book to be completely accurate.

Writing this blog has been a very emotional experience and has generated mixed feelings. I am grateful for the opportunity to say what I could not say then, as any major criticism would have resulted in outgoing mail being destroyed and not sent, and spoken criticism could (and did, until I knew better) result in a stern lecture and a warning about possible punishment. At the same time, I do not want to continue to dwell on a painful part of the past, nor do I want to remind others of it. And furthermore, as today's Linton Hall School seems to be a far better place, I do not want to continue writing about what is in the past and which I hope will not be repeated again.

I've mentioned that I was an officer when I was in the eighth grade. I send my deepest apologies to each and every cadet for the times I did not act as I know now, and knew back then, I should have acted. In particular, on many occasions I called lower-ranking cadets stupid, dumb, or a mess. The older ones probably realized that it wasn't true, but the younger ones may have believed me. I am deeply sorry for this and hope you realized that it was I who was stupid, dumb and a mess for saying it, and I am deeply sorry for having done that.

I also saw many younger children at Linton Hall being punished and humiliated for accidentally peeing in their bed while asleep. I regret not having initiated a conversation with fellow officers in order to reach a consensus that none of us would punish little children for something that they could not control. When I supervised study hour for children in the lower grades, I regret not having told anyone I saw with urine-soaked pajamas around his neck that such a punishment would not be tolerated by me while I supervised study hour. But I never did any of this.

I have long forgiven officers who were not good to me. I learned to do this once I walked the proverbial mile in their shoes.

I believe that apologies are due from the adults who either engaged in excessive punishment or took no action to stop it. But that is something that should be done sincerely and of your own initiative, not because I ask for it.

One last point. I have written under the pen name "Linton Hall Cadet." I did it so that I could be truthful about myself and not feel the need to put myself and my actions in a positive light. I also did it so that once I stopped posting, I could set that part of my past aside, and not have those who know me now, bring up painful memories which they wouldn't understand, not having been there.

There is also a specific reason why I chose the pseudonym "Linton Hall Cadet" instead of "John Doe" or "Mr. X." I could be any one of the thousands of cadets who attended Linton Hall, since we were all subject to the same schedule, same rules, same discipline. Even if we were lucky enough to be spared certain punishments, we saw others being punished. There was virtually no privacy and virtually no room for individuality. In that sense, each and every one of us was "Linton Hall Cadet" and each of us could have reported what I have. Some may see things in a more positive light that I do, but there is no denying the facts.

I wish each and every one of my fellow alumni all the best. I hope you enjoyed the good things in life, the things you were deprived of while you were there. As a result of being sent there, I now have a deeper appreciation for good food, fresh fruit, privacy, the freedom to schedule my time, the ability to travel far from Bristow, Virginia and to enjoy the beauty that the world offers.

There may or may not be another post or two. I say goodbye to all, and thank you for reading about my experiences and sharing yours.

Linton Hall Cadet

Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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