A military three-volley gun salute echoed as the notes of “Taps” sounded Nov. 11 on the campus of Miami University, officially opening the new Alumni Veterans Tribute honoring Miami alumni who have served, are currently serving and will serve in the armed forces.
The dedication drew a couple hundred people, mostly older veterans, but many were young women and men in uniform currently serving or getting ready to do so through the ROTC programs on campus.
All were appreciative of the visible sign of support veterans see from the alumni tribute, but one young veteran told what it means to her to see it right outside Wells Hall, where the university’s Student Veterans Association is located.
Emma Wott, a four-year Marine Corps veteran now in her third year as a student at Miami, said she came to the university seeking “sense of place” and wondering what to expect when there are many stereotypes of ex-military personnel in society.
“All you want to do is live. You come to the conclusion of whys. We are condemned for the sins of our government,” she said. “This tribute means action was taken for veterans who feel forgotten. It takes time for veterans to heal from their wounds. This means stereotypes mean nothing. We are more than stereotypes. We are still here.”
Wott serves as president of the Student Veterans Association and for her, the tribute is more than a physical monument. It is an active reminder of support.
“Action was taken by those affiliated with the military and those who were not. They with a means to help shed light on veterans who feel forgotten. Instead of us having to keep looking for something, someone is instead holding their hand out already,” she said.
Planning, funding and building the Alumni Veterans Tribute was a project of five years’ work and members of the planning committee were acknowledged during the ceremony by David Lawrence, class of 1964 and a Navy veteran. He and Dave Miller (Miami ’60, MBA ’69), also a Navy veteran, were credited with the original idea but the other members of the committee made up of alumni veterans also included Lee Fisher ’68, Army; Michael Glaser ’83, Navy; Stephen Koper ’64, Air Force; and Woody Stroud ’63, Air Force.
Funding was through private support from alumni and friends.
The ceremony opened with raising the flag at the center of the new tribute, a flag Lawrence said had been flown over the U.S. Capitol aboard an F16 C Plus Viper Jet Capitol Guardian.
Other flags had been received for the site, as well, he noted: a U.S. flag flown atop the Capitol building Oct. 7, on the 241st anniversary of the victory at Saratoga, NY in the Revolutionary War; an Ohio flag flown over the state Capitol in Columbus on the anniversary of a victory in the War of 1812; and Ohio and Miami flags also flown over the Capitol by the Capitol Guardian.
While the physical tribute on the campus grounds offers an impressive sight to visitors, it is really only one of two parts to the overall project.
The memorial includes the names of Miamians who were killed in action or missing in action, but there is also a virtual part which is a website with a searchable database of Miamians who have served or are serving.
“For more than two centuries, more than 8,000 alumni of Miami University have served in our country’s armed forces,” Lawrence said. “This spawned the idea of creating a physical site on campus to acknowledge the breadth of Miami’s alumni involvement in the military.”
During the ceremony, he added, “While continuously displaying the flag that unites all military branches, this Alumni Veterans Tribute now provides a site for accommodating both special events and a place for personal reflection.”
Miller told the crowd Miami not only has a role in recognizing and supporting those graduates who serve in the military, but that during World War II the service academies were at full capacity and Miami took a role in training military personnel to get them ready for service. He said 1,843 were trainer here in that way.
“As a university, Miami played a vital role in leadership training for those who served,” Miller said.
President Gregory Crawford said, “This tribute will be a constant reminder of the debt of gratitude we owe to our veterans. It will remind us to honor service, to keep alive the memory of sacrifices, and to emulate those who have demonstrated these core values.”
Following the formal ceremony many broke into small groups, talking about the afternoon’s ceremony but most walked the winding way of the tribute, reading names of Miami graduates who had died in service, some looking for names they knew. Others read the quotes from military or government leaders relating to service, one from Benjamin Harrison, a Miamian who served as President.
The program included the Miami Glee Club which performed the National Anthem as well as the songs representing the five branches of service represented at the tribute—Army, Marines, coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. The three-volley salute was provided by the United State Marine Corps Communications Company, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division of Cincinnati.