* In response to “Navy Panel Seeks to Expel 29 in Cheating Scandal,” April 1:
The most enduring lesson I learned at the Naval Academy was given during the first few days of “plebe summer.” During the Spanish-American War, a young soldier was instructed to deliver an important message to Garcia, an American officer, but the messenger was given no details as to Garcia’s whereabouts, only an urgent message which could influence the result of the war. He delivered the message. No one knows how he did it.
That was to be our model for behavior at Annapolis--get things done as directed, the method will not be investigated. Yes, we learned about the Honor Code, “A midshipman does not lie, cheat, or steal” but more often we were directed to “take a message to Garcia.” The academy is not the only place in this country where there is a conflict between the competing virtues of efficiency and honor. But it is an extremely visible place where we all believe honor should be upheld. Perhaps the lessons of these midshipmen, as well as the questionable, yet efficient, actions of prominent alumni Oliver North and Ross Perot, might lead us all to re-evaluate the importance of a “sense of honor.” Perhaps we should ask for some more details about Garcia’s messenger.
JEFFREY M. WHEELER