The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, officially dedicated the Armed Forces Memorial honoring the sacrifice of students, faculty, and staff from all UT System campuses who died in the line of duty while in military service to the United States. The celebration on Thursday comes 102 years after Volunteers in 1920 began raising money for a campus memorial to honor UT students who lost their lives in World War I.
The flagship university’s Army ROTC Alumni Council picked up the effort where students had left off. The monument includes service members from World War I to the present who died in direct combat military operations, training, and as the result of domestic or international acts of terror.
Speaking at the event, Chancellor Donde Plowman said the 365 individuals honored on the memorial are among the finest examples of the Volunteer spirit. “I hope this memorial will serve as an opportunity to not only reflect on the sacrifice of those it honors, but reminds us of the courage that lies in each of us—and the responsibility we all have to step forward, to lead, and to light the way for others,” she said.
While the final monument has not yet arrived on campus, it will be located on the Joe Johnson–John Ward Pedestrian Mall in front of Brown Hall. The dedicated name plate memorializing the fallen Volunteers is viewable on a wood mock-up. The final design will be highlighted by a 13-ton monolithic sculpture carved of native Tennessee marble. A plate embedded with bronze medallions featuring the seal of each branch of the US Armed Forces will serve as a backdrop to the sculpture. Visitors will see the names of each of UT’s fallen heroes on the sloped surface of the sculpture.
Seven local high school students participated in the ceremony by reenacting first-person accounts of service members whose names appear on the memorial. Each represented a different branch of the US military and the conflicts in which they perished.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Logan Hickman (’80) served as the project officer for the council’s Armed Forces Memorial Committee.
“Today signifies 102 years of dedicated effort by the university and its volunteers to complete this act of respect,” he said. “Our success is due in large part to our partnership with the Facility Services department, our council fundraising committee, and to the hours of research conducted by Cynthia Tinker and the Center for the Study of War and Society.
“The 365 names on the wall have faces, and all the faces have stories. The memorial will ensure these sacrifices live for generations to come.”
The Center for Study of War and Society in UT’s College of Arts and Sciences conducted extensive research to gather information on those to be honored. Tinker, a program coordinator in the center, led the research effort.
“We’ve combed through yearbooks, old alumni magazines as well as previous research that the UT Alumni Office and former UT Historian Milton Klein had conducted. It is a laborious process, but we cannot let the memories of these individuals slip away.”
In addition to the physical memorial, the committee hopes to build a website with photos and biographies of the individuals memorialized.
“There are so many great stories to be told,” said committee member Ben Scott (’83), who researched the biographies of UT alumni veterans. “Each name on the memorial represents a story and a family that was changed forever.”
Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375, firstname.lastname@example.org)