The Memorial Union may be closed, but the military personnel for whom it stands in tribute are not forgotten.
The building, honoring Aggies who gave their lives in military service, would normally host UC Davis’ annual Memorial Day Ceremony this Thursday (May 21) in advance of next week’s holiday. Instead, the in-person ceremony has been replaced with a video featuring some of the speakers and attendees who would have otherwise paid tribute to our country’s fallen.
“Although we cannot gather together, we still will not forget our fallen,” Omega Lee, who was hired as coordinator of the Veterans Success Center in late March, said to introduce the video. She held a position at another institution helping students receive Veterans Affairs benefits, and said she “enjoyed helping those who have served our country.”
Stephen Perry, a student at the Graduate School of Management who would have served as this year’s keynote speaker, said the day is about reflection.
“It’s a time to reflect on those who have died in past battles and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” said the Army captain, who serves as assistant director and military lead for the UC Davis MBA Ambassadors.
Others — students, faculty, staff and alumni — weighed in and submitted videos of themselves sharing what Memorial Day means to them.
“It’s not just a day as a holiday, a time away from work, but a time of remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of GIs that gave up their lives, that served our country in the time of need,” said Steve Edington, a chief IT engineer with Information and Educational Technology. “A day for us to remember those who have fallen.”
Those fallen have included students and alumni of UC Davis — the 136 Gold Star Aggies whose names are listed on the Gold Star Aggies Wall and in the Golden Memory Book on display in the east wing of the Memorial Union. While that display cannot currently be seen in person, the book is available online, telling the stories of each Aggie we’ve lost in military service since World War I.
Aggies like Charles Albert Whittington ’41, who died in 1942 when his plane was struck by lightning while over Lubbock, Texas, and crashed. Or John L. Barovetto, who was a star athlete and class president at Davis High School in 1956 before attending UC Davis for two years. He transferred to UC Berkeley, graduated in 1964 and enlisted in the Army. He was killed four years later amid fighting during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and is remembered for helping coordinate relief effort from Davis residents for Vietnamese people during the war.
Sean Endecott Elliott’s is the most recent addition to the Golden Memory Book and Gold Star Aggies Wall. A 2009 graduate, he was a captain in the Marine Corps who was co-piloting a plane that crashed in Mississippi in 2017, and is remembered for his honesty and enthusiasm.
Normally their names would be read aloud by Army ROTC cadets, veterans and military dependents, but in 2020 we’ll all be responsible for taking time individually to reflect on them.
“You realize the staggering cost that has been paid and the debt that is owed,” said Bob Svoboda, a Navy veteran and physics professor. “So I think I’d like everyone to think about that this Memorial Day.”