It has been said that the greatest casualty of war is to be forgotten. The imperative to remember is the driving force behind a new memorial recently dedicated on campus. On Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, Western Reserve Academy held a Commemoration & Dedication ceremony of the Alumni War Memorial and an unveiling of the new brick and bronze structure that stands, staid and proud, between the Chapel and Seymour Hall.
The WRA Alumni War Memorial honors alumni of the school who gave their lives in service to the country, bearing the names of those who died in the Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (Western Reserve Academy did not suffer any student-military casualties during World War I and the War in Afghanistan). Also included on the memorial are two civilians who were killed in other military conflicts, Jordi Pujol ’86, a journalist who was killed in Sarajevo while covering that conflict, and Todd Weaver ’89, a businessman who lost his life in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
The War Memorial Committee, led by Harrison “Hub” Bubb ’57, includes fellow WRA alumni Brooke Anderson ’57 and Dr. Loren Raymond ’58, as well as Christopher Bach, an architectural and landscape designer from Hudson. They have expressed profound gratitude to the school and those who made gifts to make such a monument possible, but thanks and appreciation is owed to them many times over. It is unmistakably because of this team and their tireless efforts that such a beautiful memorial has been brought to life. Notably, they have compiled notes on the ideation, intention and design of the memorial, and we invite you to read their historic pamphlet here for further background.
“While the main goal of the WRA Alumni War Memorial is to honor our alumni who have paid the ultimate price, it is also hoped that it will serve as both a warning and a lesson,” shared Anderson. “The warning is never to ignore danger; the lesson is that free people – if threatened – have to fight for their freedom and the freedom of their children and future generations.”
Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck says the memorial’s prominent location on campus is apt, particularly because the location marks a shift from a spot on campus that has become less traveled with time.
“Those we seek to remember were central to our campus and our country,” Buck said.
Inside the Chapel, the school community and more than 50 invited guests filled the pews to capacity, but as the program began, everyone stayed quiet and still, only breaking the solemn silence for applause and standing with respect for the program speakers. Student Body co-Presidents Landon Allis ’23 and Jordanne Nichols ’23 introduced the War Memorial Committee and the guest speaker, Lt. General (Ret.) Daniel W. Christman ’61.
Lt. General Christman, now retired from the United States Army, is the former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy and the current Senior Vice President for International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Christman was born in Youngstown, Ohio, was raised in Hudson, and graduated first in his class from West Point. He was awarded four times with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s highest peacetime service award. What an honor it was to hear from someone with such a rich and storied service to this country.
It is admittedly difficult to pull small excerpts from Lt. General Christman’s deeply moving remarks, and we strongly encourage all to read his speech in full. He recalled his time as a student, gazing at the World War II plaque inside the Bicknell Gymnasium, softly reciting the names of the 46 young men who gave their lives to their country. Why so many, he wondered, from a school so small?
“As I served in the Army, fought in Vietnam, and became familiar later in life with battlefields like Gettysburg and Normandy and Antietam, the size of the sacrifices from this school became, perhaps, more understandable,” he shared. “This school produces leaders. Always has. And leaders lead from the front. ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Rangers Lead the Way’ became part of my soul, starting at West Point and through 40 years in uniform. In Vietnam, for helicopter assaults, leaders got on the helicopters LAST, we got OFF first; we were last in any chow line, knew our soldiers’ names, and met them where they worked: on patrol, on firebases, in their fox-holes or fighting positions or bunkers; and we tried to know about their families. That’s what leaders do.”
At the conclusion of Lt. General’s speech, members of The Academy Choir stood in the upper level pews to perform “In Flanders Fields.” This was followed by a special presentation organized by Dr. Lisabeth Robinson, longtime faculty member of the Social Science Department, who has compiled research on the WRA students who lost their lives either serving this country or through a military conflict. There are slides about each student, details about their time at the school, their talents and passions. So many listed were scarcely older than the students who stood at the podium to read their names, to tell their stories.
At the end of the Chapel ceremony, the program extended to the outdoors where invited guests walked to the site of the memorial wall. On Lawn’s Wide Sweep, our American and WRA flags stood at half mast but raised to signal the start of the program.
On the wall itself, members of the Alumni War Committee had carefully draped an American flag on the center plaque, with two side banners covering the smaller plaques on either side. The bronze plaque that adorns the memorial has a long history at WRA, first unveiled in 1951 on the 125th anniversary of the school to honor 46 Reserve graduates who died in World War II. This central plaque is flanked by two more that honor those who died in the Civil War and those who died during the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and civilians who passed due to military conflicts.
As Lt. General Christman gave a salute to the flag and to the men listed on the wall, many members of the audience stood at attention. With utmost care, co-Presidents of the Board of Trustees Martin D. Franks ’68 and Nathaniel E. Leonard ’82, Lt. General Christman and members of the War Memorial Committee stepped forward to remove the coverings, passing the flag to two WRA students who ensured that the flag never touched the ground.
After a performance of “Taps” from Kai Kaneta ’24 and Alex Wu ’23, the Chapel bells tolled — 66 rings for 66 Pioneers, an echo of their names spanning across our acreage.
Bubb, so instrumental to the project, summarized the day, saying, “The memorial is a tribute to service and individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope that the memorial serves as a reminder that freedom isn’t free.”
Wise words for all of us to remember. We will only add that we hope it brings peace, and conveys permanence and the deep pride of an indebted community.