Friday, May 27, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Happy Friday, and happy Memorial Day weekend.
As the writer G.K. Chesterton, the “prince of paradox,” famously said, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms” because it requires “a strong desire to live” with a readiness posture for the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day is a time for us to pause and bow our heads in remembrance of those men and women who lost their lives while defending freedom. May we never forget their service and sacrifice, and may we always remember that freedom comes at a great cost. The unfathomable Ukrainian war, this most unbelievable perversion of logic, is a sobering reminder that freedom is not free.
All through the history of this wonderful institution, starting with World War I and through the most recent conflicts, Miners have responded to the call of duty to defend the nation and our freedom. From the eight students who perished during World War I to those who died in more recent conflicts, we remember they readily answered their nation’s call.
One of the first casualties of World War II, and one of its first heroes, was George A. Whiteman, who studied chemical engineering at S&T before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. Stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he flew his Curtiss P-40 Warhawk into the battle before being shot down by enemy fire. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri bears his name as a testament to his service and sacrifice.
Six alumni who died in action during World War II were honored by our university through the naming of six buildings in 1958. Thomas Wallace Kelly, John Milroy McAnerney, Willard Farrar, William Altman and Orvid Holtman all had long-standing residence halls named in their honor, while John Rayl was recognized by the naming of Rayl Cafeteria.
Miners have participated and made sacrifices in subsequent global conflicts, from the Korean war to Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan. Capt. Sylvan Bradley, a 1961 civil engineering graduate, was killed after his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in Vietnam. The list of engagements and sacrifices goes on and we hold them all dear.
This year, Memorial Day occurs one day after the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which is observed in recognition of those uniformed and civilian personnel who have lost their lives serving under the United Nations flag. Some 4,200, many Americans included, have lost their lives since 1948 while helping countries transition from conflict to peace. As we enter this weekend, we recognize that keeping the peace also comes with a price.
As I think of all the lives lost in service to our nation, I’m reminded of the poem “Bivouac of the Dead,” by the Mexican-American War veteran Theodore O’Hara. The editors of the 1919 Rollamo yearbook “victory edition,” which commemorated the Allied victory of World War I, also saw fit to select these words from O’Hara’s poem to honor “those who did not live to receive their well-earned praise”:
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
While Glory guards with solemn sounds
The bivouac of the dead.
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her records keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.
I wish you and your family a safe and restful Memorial Day weekend.
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