Flags for the Fallen
PROVO, Utah – Dec 20, 2019 – Cadets and faculty in BYU’s Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC programs commemorated Veterans Day last month with activities that focused on both honoring the 212 fallen soldiers on the Memorial Wall in BYU’s Wilkinson Student Center and preparing cadets for their own future military service.
The Memorial Wall memorializes fallen soldiers who attended or graduated from BYU with a list of the soldiers’ names and the statement, “These we honor: In grateful memory of these Brigham Young University students who gave their lives for our country.”
As part of Veterans Day activities, BYU Army ROTC cadets and the Brigham Young University Student Service Association (BYUSA) worked together to honor the fallen soldiers named on the Memorial Wall by putting up 212 American flags. “We put out 212 flags, one flag for each BYU alum who has died in a war since World War I,” says cadet Kendrick Stevenson, a junior from Austin, Texas, who is studying construction management at BYU. “From my understanding, it’s the first time that BYU has done something of this scale to recognize those soldiers who gave their lives.”
The flags were located on the grass outside of the Jesse Knight Building and remained out until 5:30 p.m. on Veterans Day.
Placing the flags was a student-led activity, and cadets in the Army ROTC were aided in the endeavor by BYUSA, who provided funding and additional volunteers for putting out the flags. “For those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, this is the least that we can do to recognize that sacrifice,” says BYUSA president Robert Borden. “The effort and funds the project required were money and time well spent to give back to those who have given.”
Along with placing the flags, the BYU ROTC programs conducted a wreath-laying ceremony in the reflection room. The ceremony started in the reflection room where Army ROTC cadet Ben Swartz and Air Force ROTC cadet Robert McCown read the 212 names on the Memorial Wall. BYU President Kevin J Worthen, Brigham Young University’s president; Michelle Kaufusi, the Provo city mayor; Col. Frederick Thaden, Air Force ROTC Detachment 855 commander; and Lt. Col. Chip Cook, Army ROTC Service First Battalion commander and associate professor in BYU Marriott’s Department of Military Science, then placed a wreath in front of the Memorial Wall.
“An activity like this provides a little bit of perspective for us,” says Stevenson. “As current cadets, we hear the names of fallen soldiers who were cadets in these ROTC programs, and it helps us realize what we’re doing is serious and that it’s important that we develop ourselves now as leaders so that we can be the best leaders and soldiers possible.”
After the wreath-laying ceremony, cadets and other guests at the activities moved to Brigham Square outside of the Wilkinson Center for the Presidential Review. During the review, cadet commanders Cathryn Guzwell and Sydney Clark presented Kaufusi with a leadership excellence award.
The tradition of presenting a member of the community with the leadership excellence award started in the 1980s as a way for the ROTC programs to honor those who serve the community and country.
“I felt honored to be recognized as worthy of the Leadership of Excellence award,” says Kaufusi. “I feel humbled because I know I am surrounded by many people in this community who are just as deserving.”
The Presidential Review also included a review of the troops, during which Worthen, Kaufusi, Thaden, and Cook had the opportunity to walk among Air Force and Army ROTC cadets, who were standing in formation at attention.
Kaufusi was especially impacted by her participation in the review. “The Presidential Review was something that I will never forget,” says Kaufusi. “I felt honored to be looking in the eyes of these outstanding cadets at BYU. This is a moment of my life I will never forget. I felt the utmost respect for these young people.”
The activities allowed cadets to honor fallen soldiers and gave cadets the opportunity to prepare themselves for future service. “Part of the purpose of the activities is to honor our heritage of service in uniform and in dedication to serving our country,” says Cook. “Part of it is ensuring that cadets know how to wear the uniform, march, and do the fundamentals of being a soldier. But for the most part, we're trying to inspire in cadets the desire to serve and the desire to serve their country.”
The activities inspire cadets by allowing them to reflect on the leadership and sacrifice of the fallen soldiers and listen to current leaders. Kevin Rose, a BYU Army ROTC cadet from Springville, Utah, studying psychology says, “Seeing the tradition of the Presidential Review, hearing from leaders in the community, and taking a moment to remember all those soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who have shown incredible leadership throughout the years is great for every student, from first-year students in the program to fourth-year students who are graduating in the BYU Air Force and Army ROTC programs."
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalia Green