Eastern Kentucky University will unveil a Fallen Soldier Cross sculpture during its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Memorial Plaza adjacent to the Powell Building.
The day’s activities will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a special roll-call tribute to Vietnam veterans with the reading of names of the 1,100 Kentuckians killed in action in the Vietnam War.
The official ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with the national anthem and traditional “missing soldier” tribute by the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter. Dr. George Herring, a history professor at the University of Kentucky, author and prominent scholar of the Vietnam War, will introduce keynote speaker Michael Archer, who served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and went on to author “A Patch of Ground: Khe Sanh Remembered,” an acclaimed first-person account of the 77-day siege of an American combat base,” and “The Long Goodbye: Khe Sanh Revisited,” which chronicled the author’s search for answers to a friend’s mysterious death at Khe Sanh. “The Long Goodbye” was selected to receive Foreword magazine’s 2016 Indies Book of the Year Award for War and Military Nonfiction.
Approximately $15,000 was raised to fund the Fallen Soldier Cross sculpture, which was fashioned by Allen Ferg and intended to bring attention to a section of the Veterans Memorial dedicated to remember those who lost their lives because of their service, but not while serving. The sculpture is a bronze casting of the traditional upside-down rifle, boots and helmet. “However, the sculptor felt that adding a stainless steel sphere surrounding the statue would symbolize that PTSD is not unique to America, and represent the global nature of the problems facing all warriors after they leave service,” said Dr. Brett Morris, former professor of military science with the University’s ROTC program, who has been involved with the Veterans Memorial project since its beginning in 2002. Ferg was a platoon mate of fellow Vietnam veteran and former EKU history professor Dr. Robert Topmiller, who passed away in 2008.
After the sculpture unveiling, the name of EKU alumnus Thomas Fagan will be added to the benches recognizing those who lost their lives because of their service, but after having left the service. Dr. Aaron Thompson, executive vice president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, will give a short eulogy of Fagan, whom he once mentored.
As a final tribute, families and friends of those recognized at the site will attach individual “dogtags” to the sphere to create a wind chime effect. The dogtags will not be the originals worn by the honorees but replicas with the names and years of birth and death inscribed.
The ceremony will conclude at approximately 11 a.m. with the playing of “Taps.”
Veterans will also participate in the 17th annual halftime tribute to veterans at the EKU football game that afternoon.
Donations to the Veterans Memorial Fund at EKU can still be made through the EKU Development Office, online at development.eku.edu/giving and designating the gift to the Veterans Memorial Fund, or by mail to University Development, Coates CPO 19, Eastern Kentucky University, 521 Lancaster Ave., Richmond, Kentucky, 40475.
Gifts of $100 or more are remembered by brick pavers that name the donors or someone they wish to recognize.
Eastern will also participate in the annual National Roll Call on Friday, Nov. 10. The University’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs will host the reading of approximately 7,000 names as part of a grassroots effort to honor service members lost in recent military conflicts. The Nov. 10 event will take place in front of the EKU Veterans Memorial Wall from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.