On Thursday, The University of Tennessee held a memorial dedication ceremony honoring Volunteers who died while serving in the Armed Forces.
The Armed Forces Veterans Memorial is dedicated to all UT alumni, staff and student veterans who have died in the line of duty since World War I. There are currently 365 honorees and more will be recognized after being verified.
A replica of the memorial was unveiled at the dedication. The real memorial, a 13-ton Tennessee marble sculpture, is still in the process of being constructed.
The names of the honorees will be on the back of the memorial, which will be placed in front of the Fred D. Brown residence hall.
The project officer, retired Lt. Col. Logan W. Hickman Jr., explained that the military community donated a collective $120,000 for the memorial.
“What we wanted to do was make it every man’s memorial, we didn’t have anybody come in and write a real big check,” Hickman said.
Representatives Dave Wright and Gloria Johnson were in attendance, as well as many veterans and the families of some of the honorees.
A joint color guard of Army and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets presented the flags of the United States of America, Tennessee and UT. Matthew Tolson, a first-year graduate student, sang the national anthem and Rev. Charla Sherbakoff performed an invocation.
Hickman welcomed the family members of honorees, spoke about the inspiration behind the memorial and thanked those involved in the creation of it. The president of the UTK Alumni Board, retired Maj. Gen. William Gary Beard, introduced the keynote speaker, retired Gen. B. B. Bell.
Bell spoke of how the Tennessee Volunteers got their name and connected Civil War volunteers to UT veterans.
“Tennessee Volunteers were, and are, the bedrock of Americans’ freedom,” Bell said.
War actors gave first-person accounts of several honorees’ experiences, including second Lt. William H. Eckel, reenacted by Luke Williams.
“He sacrificed himself for his platoon. He put aside his education and risked his life, and ultimately gave it for his country,” Williams said.
“Freedom isn’t free … it’s more of a realization that people who’ve died for you went to the same college you’re going to.”
Kelly Ann Shipe, a piper, played “Amazing Grace” during a moment of reverence.
Chancellor Donde Plowman gave a speech before unveiling the replica of the memorial.
“Today we honor, and we remember those Volunteers from World War I to the present that gave their life for our country … I am grateful every single day for their courage,” Plowman said.
“Being a Volunteer means stepping forward in courage to serve and to lead. I can think of no greater example of this than those who serve our country.”
A wreath was laid by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard played “Taps” before the joint color guard of Army and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets retired the colors.
A reception was held immediately after, allowing attendees to mingle and share their experiences with one another.