Memorial Day Ceremony Returns in Person May 26

People look at Gold Star Aggies Wall in Memorial Union
The Gold Star Aggies Wall in the Memorial Union bears the names of all 136 former students who have lost their lives in military service to this country. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
William Gould Vann in pilot gear
William Gould Vann

Seventy years ago, William Gould Vann ’50 joined a U.S. Air Force training squadron in Kinston, North Carolina. The Woodland native had previously trained in Texas and Oklahoma, and was now a new member of the Aviation Cadet Training Program.

Just one month shy of being commissioned as a pilot amid the Korean War, he was killed in a training accident near Stallings Air Base in Kinston. His name would be among those to eventually be displayed in the UC Davis Memorial Union, which was completed three years later and dedicated to our Gold Star Aggies — lives lost in military service to this country.

UC Davis will remember Vann and the 135 other Gold Star Aggies at the campuss annual Memorial Day Ceremony, 5 p.m. Thursday (May 26). See At a Glance below for details.

Fighting COVID-19 in war

Rory Stuart
Rory Stuart

Seven decades after a record-breaking number of people were infected with polio and in the first in-person Memorial Day Ceremony at UC Davis since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a doctor who splits his time between the U.S. Air Force and UC Davis Health will share his thoughts on Memorial Day as the keynote speaker.

Lt. Col. Rory Stuart was serving at the lead emergency physician at Bagram Airfield in northern Afghanistan in March 2020, and quickly helped form a plan to protect military personnel from the virus. That plan included quarantining people upon arrival and closing dining halls and other gathering places; Stuart earned a Bronze Star for his work.

“We could not afford to lose those people on the wall,” Stuart said in 2020, referring to people on the front lines in Afghanistan.

The ceremony will take place on the Memorial Union’s North Courtyard. The building is the repository of the Golden Memory Book, a collection of biographies of the Gold Star Aggies lost in both World Wars, the Vietnam War and other conflicts. The names of those Aggies also appear on the Gold Star Aggies Wall in the MU’s east wing.

In person again


In lieu of in-person events during the pandemic, Aggies shared memories and their thoughts on Memorial Day in 2020 and 2021.

This year’s ceremony will include all of the traditional components, including the playing of taps and the reading of the names of the Gold Star Aggies. In a daylong tribute, American flags – one for each Gold Star Aggie — will be placed on the Quad and the Vanderhoef Quad at the campus’s southern entry.

ASUCD President Ryan Manriquez will serve as emcee and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan will deliver welcome remarks.

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Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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