By Graig Graziosi
A small crowd gathered at Youngstown State University’s Veterans’ Memorial Plaza on Wednesday to recognize students and alumni killed during active duty in the armed forces.
The event — known as The Reading of the Names — invites a small group of currently serving and veteran service members to read the names of YSU alumni and students who died during active duty military service.
The servicemembers remembered at the event were representatives of most modern wars ranging from World War II to modern day conflicts.
Most of the names read were students who died during World War II, a conflict during which Harry Meshel, member of the YSU Board of Trustees, served. For Meshel, remembering the sacrifices of the past is a crucial part of appreciating the present.
“It’s significant to do this and significant to recall these [sacrifices] … people need to remember that their mothers, fathers, neighbors and so on traveled thousands of miles to go fight for the freedoms we have today … it’s absolutely important to remind people of these things. Everyone is so self-involved anymore, it’s important to have reminders of what it means to give up everything for something bigger than ourselves,” Meshel said.
Along with the individuals reading the names of the fallen servicemembers, the Honor Guard from the 910th Airlift Wing Youngstown Air Reserve Station were on hand for the presentation of the flag. Tri-State Marine Detachment 494 — a group of veterans who perform various ceremonial duties around the region — were present for a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps.
Bruce Kirkland, the commandant of the Tri-State Marine Detachment 494 and a veteran of the Marines, explained why his group focuses so much on celebrations of remembrance for veterans.
“I’m getting a few years under my belt — I’m 77 years old — and we want to bring new, younger members into the group and teach them to do these kinds of events. The current veterans need to lead the way in remembering those we’ve lost in all branches of the service,” Kirkland said.
Among those gathered to watch the event was President Jim Tressel, who expressed disappointment at only one aspect of the occasion.
“I really wish we could have done this during the school year when more students are on campus. I think it’s crucial we remind ourselves we wouldn’t have the good fortune we all have now if it weren’t for the sacrifice of so many. Unfortunately, you can only fit so much into a school year,” Tressel said. “It’s important we remember and it’s of the utmost important that we serve the 400 veterans we have currently enrolled here as best we can.”
YSU finished the construction of a Veterans’ Resource Center on campus and is one of the only universities in the country to have such a resource center housed in it’s own building.