A few years ago, I went to my 40th West Point
class reunion. I had a wonderful time especially renewing friendships with those
with whom I lived, studied, and trained during those four arduous years. We
truly were “a band of brothers”. 44 years later my time at West Point continues
to significantly define who I am today.
While at the reunion, I was interviewed by West Point’s
Center for Oral History as a result of my experiences while a cadet, in particular
during the Honor Scandal of 1976. At the time, it was a huge event receiving
national attention and threatening to destroy the very foundation that makes
West Point great - it’s Honor Code. Though innocent, I was caught in the middle
of it. I found myself in a battle to prove my innocence and defend my honor.
Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, I was guilty until proven
innocent. It was a terrible, transformative time.
The honor scandal involved an electrical engineering exam
that my entire class took just before Spring Break my Junior year. This was a
take-home test, yet, as was true with any work at West Point, you were honor bound
to not ask for or received any help from anyone, no matter how minor. If you
did, you were required to footnote the help you received and your grade was
reduced accordingly. Many of my classmates, for reasons known only to them,
chose to help each other and not footnote that help. Thus, they had violated
the code. An investigation of epic proportions ensued.
In the months that followed, I and others under
investigation, were moved to barracks separate from the rest of the Corps of
Cadets; relieved of leadership responsibilities within the Corps for the summer;
assigned a lawyer; and given a trial date. The first time I met my lawyer he
told me I had a 20% chance of being found innocent! I was shocked to my core. I
responded, “Sir, you’re telling me, someone who is completely innocent, that I
have only a 20% chance of being found innocent?” He reminded me that up to that
time, scores of my classmates had gone before the Honor Committee and all had
been found guilty and dismissed. It was the lowest, darkest time of my life. To
be accused of something you did not do is one the worst things that can happen
to a person.
My lawyer came to believe in my innocence and so began a
many - months fight to prove it. I won this battle, but at great emotional cost.
I was extremely embittered toward West Point and all it represented. It was an
institution that prided itself on over 200 years of unparalleled education, military,
leadership, and character training. Yet I, and many other innocent classmates, were
caught up in an investigation that became a witch hunt. Eventually, hundreds of
us were investigated and over 150 found guilty and dismissed. It left a chasm
within my class that to this day has not completely healed.
The day I graduated was bittersweet for me. I was happy
beyond words to have survived the blood, sweat, and tears of my four years
there. But I was also extremely bitter toward West Point. When I drove my car
through Thayer gate into “freedom”, I intentionally flipped my rearview mirror
up so I would not see a trace of it. I was so angry I refused to wear my class
ring for years. I was not convinced that what I had been through had been worth
it. Eventually, with time, bad memories begin to fade and my anger softened.
With my acceptance to medical school, I realized the critical role West Point
played in opening that door for me. I came to understand that all the pain and
sacrifice had been worth it.
I am a better person for
having gone through that most difficult time. As a result, I have a strong
sense of justice and a resolve to be a man of honor and integrity, living up to
the West Point motto “Duty, Honor, Country”. As a leader, I continually seek to
create a culture of respect that allows people to do what they do best, better, and to reach their fullest potential!
Andy Lamb, MD
DEAR DOCTOR LAMB, I ALWAYS ENJOY READING YOUR BUGLE NOTES AND YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO KEVIN MD. WE WERE BORN IN THE SAME YEAR, I WAS IN THE U.S. ARMY HONOR GUARD, 1976, BICENTENNIAL SUMMER, FORT MEYERS. I AM AN RN, 35 YEARS, I HAVE NEVER NEGOTIATED ON HONESTY OR EXCELLENCE. THE CURRENT MISSION, PATIENT CARE ASSIGNMENT, HOWEVER IMPOSSIBLE MUST BE OUR MOST IMPORTANT GOAL. DOCTOR LAMB, I WAS INSPIRED TO SHARE WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL PERSON, YOUR PRESENCE BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN EVERYONE, PLEASE STAYSTRONGER FOR LONGER, MUCHO LOVE,ReplyDelete
LARRY KING, THE HOLISTIC RN. VENICE, FL. PFC UKANDOIT'
Hey Larry! Thank you so much for your kind words! They are very encouraging to me and let me know that my "Bugle Notes" are reaching people in what I hope is also an impactful way! It is really good to know that you enjoy them. Thank you as well for your service!ReplyDelete
I will be retiring from Medicine soon and plan on writing more when I do plus continuing ding medical missions and mentoring others!
Thanks again, Larry!