Members of the campus community gathered outside the Memorial Union Thursday (May 23) to remember those students and alumni for whom it is named — the Gold Star Aggies who gave their lives in military service to the United States.
“We as a campus and a society must not forget them,” Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said. “Their ultimate sacrifice was made in service to the great idea and noble ideals for which our country stands, and so that the rest of us could enjoy security, well-being and freedom.”
Those 136 students and alumni — dating back to World War I, which ended 100 years ago last fall, and as recent as 2017 — are memorialized in a book bearing their stories and with plaques on a wall inside the Memorial Union.
Army Maj. Anthony Lim Bulaclac Jr., an MBA student at the Graduate School of Management, said the day’s event “gives us a very important opportunity to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of these select few.”
He recalled his reaction when he learned about the Gold Star Aggies Wall: “a humbling feeling that also makes me proud.”
Bulaclac, the keynote speaker, told about the loss of five of his West Point classmates, four from combat-related injuries one from a helicopter mishap during a training exercise in preparation for combat operations. “They were all taken from us way too soon,” he said.
In closing, he offered four words as a “guideline” for paying tribute to the sacrifices of America’s service men and women, not only on Memorial Day but all year long: “respect” those who serve in the military, “reflect” on American freedom, “remember” the fallen and “support” the families and friends they left behind.
Three UC Davis Army ROTC cadets showed their support by greeting Roberta Taylor, mother of Golden Star Aggie Mark D. Taylor ’86, an Army surgeon killed in Iraq in 2004. The cadets had met her last weekend at Travis Air Force Base, and caught up with her again on campus. Taylor was attending her sixth UC Davis Memorial Day Ceremony, accompanied by Cathy Hilton Conrad ’85, a friend and classmate of Mark Taylor.
Faculty, staff, students and others in attendance heard Taylor’s name and the names of all of our Gold Star Aggies as they were read by a student veteran and four students who are dependents of veterans.
Megan Mekelburg, a senior majoring in sociology, recalled her father deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan when she was younger, and said ceremonies like Thursday’s resonate with her much more now that she’s older.
“It’s really moving to be asked to speak,” she said. “It’s an important ceremony that honors the Gold Star Aggies.”
Robert Van Ostrand, a Ph.D. student in chemistry, Marine Corps veteran and incoming commander of Davis Post 6949 of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was glad to honor those who served before him.
“It’s nice to know there were students who attended UC Davis who wanted to serve their country,” he said. “I respect what they did.”