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ECU to dedicate memorial to military service


By Mary Schulken
Director of Public Affairs


An ECU student strolls past the location of a new Memorial Walk and Freedom Wall, which will be dedicated April 26. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
GREENVILLE, NC   (Apr. 19, 2011)   —   Three East Carolina University students who died serving their country will be among the first memorialized on a new Memorial Walk and Freedom Wall, dedicated on April 26 at 11 a.m.

That space, located on the main campus between Christenbury Gymnasium and the science complex, will honor faculty, staff, students, and supporters of the university who have served in defense of the nation. Dr. Steve Duncan, assistant vice chancellor for operations, planning, development and military programs, hopes this memorial will be a place of reflection — a place made by the sacrifices of those whose names will be etched on brick paver stones.

“I think it’s a little hallowed place down there, and I think to add the stories and those bricks, it just adds to it,” he said.

Organizers plan to place seven stones at the dedication bearing names of those who have served and sacrificed. Sponsors pay $125 to have names of honorees on the pavers, with $100 supporting ROTC scholarships at ECU.

Those being honored with stones for their sacrifice are:
•    Capt. James R. Tant, U.S. Air Force, ECU class of ’65. Tant served in Vietnam and later flew C-140 cargo planes. He died in a crash in Bolivia in 1974.
•    1st Lt. Frank L. Rice, U.S. Army, ECU class of ’67. Rice died in Cambodia in 1970 in a helicopter crash.
•    Sgt. David Smith, U.S. Marine Corp., ECU class of ’10, who died in Helmund Provence, Afghanistan in 2010.

Family members representing each honoree are expected to attend the dedication ceremony and speak, Duncan said.

Those being honored with stones for their service are: Christian A. Lockamy, Lt. Col. John Hart, Duncan and Master Sgt. (Ret.) Ervin Evans.

The campus Victory Bell, dedicated in 1953 after the ECU Veterans Club raised money to secure it, will be rededicated at the same ceremony.

This marks the first time since that bell was placed near Christenbury Gymnasium nearly 60 years ago — and the first time since the Vietnam era — the university has set aside a place on campus to honor military service. That mirrors the shifts in societal attitudes during that period, said Duncan.

“If you think about it, sincerely, the Vietnam period was a very unpopular period and unpopular on university campuses, even to include our campus,” Duncan said.

“I think military service has become much more popular in the sense that people respect what it entails,” Duncan said.

Last week UNC Charlotte dedicated a memorial to its military veterans on campus. UNC Chapel Hill set aside a similar area last year.

Having a place on campus to honor service at ECU is particularly important, Duncan said, because the university has had a long and close relationship with the military and those who serve, Duncan said. That includes starting one of the nation’s first Air Force ROTC programs in 1948 — one year after the U.S. Air Force was established.

“Part of it is when we talk about living in eastern North Carolina, the military live in eastern North Carolina,” he said. The region has the third largest concentration of military in the nation, including Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force base and Cherry Point.

“Families for years have come to ECU, Duncan said. “There’s a strong undercurrent of support for these people on this campus.”

Last year ECU became the second university in 15 years to win the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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Contact: Mary Schulken | 252-328-6482