The University of Central Arkansas obviously warmed hearts and rekindled memories for many in the huge crowd who turned out for the unveiling of the World War II memorial on an otherwise damp, gray Friday afternoon.
The ceremony took place in front of McAlister Hall, which is the site of the memorial. The monument is made of black granite with gold lettering. It is over four feet wide and stands six feet tall.
The front carries the epitaph and the names of 46 UCA alumni who died in the war. On the back is a tribute that reads: “On February 22, 1946, a memorial service was held in Ida Waldran Auditorium to remember those alumni who died in World War II. In the same year, an oak tree was planted in memory of each fallen student. The stately oaks line Donaghey Avenue and stand in front of Wingo, McCastlain and Bernard Hall.”
The ceremony featured the presentation of the colors by the Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard, and a performance of songs of the nation?s armed forces by the UCA Band under the direction of Ricky Brooks. Veterans throughout the audience could be seen standing with pride as their anthem began.
UCA President Lu Hardin said, “We must never, never, never forget the price paid for our liberty. We, in high schools, colleges and universities and institutions must do everything we can to honor ? in monuments and memorials ? those who have given us our freedoms today.”
The president recalled conversations he had had with his late father who was a pilot in the war. “It is important that we remember these people and their stories,” he said not only of the veterans in attendance, but veterans everywhere.
State Director of Veterans Affairs Nick Bacon, a Medal of Honor recipient, was keynote speaker. Calling Bacon “the foremost advocate of veterans? affairs of all the 50 states,” Hardin said in his introduction, “He is a passionate advocate for veterans affairs and a great veteran himself. There are very few medal of honor holders living today. His extreme heroism earned him the coveted award.”
Bacon said, “It?s a great thing we do today, dedicating this beautiful memorial in the memory of the brave men and women who fought and died in World War II. A memorial like this shows how important it is to guard our way of life and our freedoms.”
He said the mission of the country today is to continue to serve in peace and in war, never forgetting the price that has been paid on the battlefields of the world, and especially by “the greatest generation” of World War II.
“They did not die in vain and we’re proud of what they did. And we’re proud of what they mean to America. Let us remember as we reflect on this day that democracy requires consistent vigilance and each time we have had to defend it, we add names to those white stones in our national cemeteries.”
Bacon also said vigilance is required as long as there are constant challenges to America’s freedoms and democracy. “The wars remind us of the continuing cost we pay for freedom. Our task this day and every day is to remember and honor those who served and those who serve today, those who died defending our way of life.
“We can never forget what they did. Many are not with us today but they live on in spirit because we remember what they did. They did not serve to conquer, they did not serve to annex, and they did not seek riches or glory. They fought for peace and the right of freedom and liberty and justice for all.”
Among the many dignitaries in attendance were Second District Congressman Vic Snyder, a former Marine who also shared a story about his father’s service; state Sen. Gilbert Baker, Mayor Tab Townsell, former Sen. Stanley Russ and members of the UCA Board of Trustees. Memorial committee chairman Jimmy Bryant was singled out by
President Hardin for his work on the project.
Hardin concluded the emotional ceremony by reading the names of the deceased who are listed on the monument. The UCA Band played “Taps” while a C130 from the Little Rock Air Force Base flew over the assemblage.