The University of South Alabama dedicated the Veterans Memorial Plaza at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28 in front of the Student Center.
The Veterans Memorial Plaza is dedicated to the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have served selflessly in the United States Armed Forces, bestowing special recognition upon those brave Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in combat in defense of the nation.
The dedication featured a fly-over by a Coast Guard helicopter, a performance by the USA Pep Band and a special playing of Taps.
The Memorial plaza honors all faculty, staff, students, and alumni in the five branches of military service - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.
USA educates veterans and future military leaders. Currently, more than 1,000 people are enrolled at USA as veterans or in Army or Air Force ROTC programs. The USA Veterans Affairs Office estimates more than 5,000 veterans have been educated at USA during its history.
A plaque in the plaza includes the names of two USA alumni who have died in service to their country.
Captain Allen Graham, a 1968 alumnus, was the first USA graduate to be killed in combat during the Vietnam conflict. A memorial scholarship in his honor and a memorial tree and plaque were placed near the Student Center. The "Freedom Tree" was sponsored by the USA National Alumni Association and the Air Force Association's Mobile Chapter.
Army First Lt. Robert Oneto-Sirkorski was a 1999 USA graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Frank Brown, a past president of the USA National Alumni Association, attended the memorial service for First Lt. Oneto-Sirkorski and realized the need for a campus memorial. He worked with Dr. Joseph Busta Jr., USA vice president for development and alumni relations, on the memorial.
Retired Army Brigadier General Brad Brightman, who now manages projects for USA, worked on the plans for the memorial and coordinated with the staff of development, maintenance and grounds. The plaza was designed by USA architect Michael Mayberry.
Speakers at the dedication event included USA President Gordon Moulton, USA Student Government President and Army Cadet Glenn Gardner, USA National Alumni Association President George Davis, USA military science professor and Army Lt. Col. William Geiger, and retired Army Lt. Col. Louis Lartigue, who serves as president of the South Alabama Veterans Council.
A Coast Guard helicopter did a flyover at the event, while the USA Pep Band played the National Anthem. Lee Hughes Jr., a USA music major, played Taps on his trumpet at the end of the ceremony in honor of all the members of the USA family who have served in the military.