Campus Landmark to Include Fallen Aztecs from Recent Military Conflicts
Attendees at last month’s War Memorial ceremony saw something new this year. Sitting on a table next to the rows of folding chairs was a scale model of the new design for the monument’s expansion.
Veterans War Memorial Committee Chairman Jim Erkenbeck ('56) speaks at the October 16 War Memorial ceremony.
“Unfortunately, we’ve got more names we need to include from more wars,” said Jim Erkenbeck (’56), chairman of the SDSU Alumni Association's Veterans War Memorial Committee. “We need much more space to put names on there.”
When the War Memorial
was dedicated in November of 1996, it was intended as a tribute to Aztecs who died in service during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It had been commissioned and funded by members of the War Memorial Committee, many of whom were friends and classmates of the fallen Aztecs whose names are listed on the monument.
Since the dedication, the United States has been involved in new wars in which Aztecs have died. Research by SDSU librarian Robert Fikes
revealed the names of four Aztecs killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Earlier this year, Navy Lt. Florence Bacong Choe (’01) lost her life in Afghanistan.
A scale model depicts the design for the expansion of the War Memorial.
The committee, which now includes members from more recent conflicts, turned to the designer of the original War Memorial, former SDSU art professor Jesus Dominguez, for a solution to expand the monument. The design that met with the greatest approval incorporates a half circle around the west side of the original granite-clad monolith allowing for names to be inscribed on both sides.
“(The Original) was the concept of shattered life and the new one is similar,” Dominguez explained. “You can see the edges are rough and shattered, just like the top (of the original). The shapes are similar to the upright one.
“Aesthetically, it curves around because anything straight would have broken up the circle. This allows for a kind of natural movement to walk around it and you can see the one in the middle, so that’s the intent.”
BRIDGING THE DISTANCE
Staff Sergeant Robert O’Berg attended the War Memorial ceremony and checked out the model of the new addition. An active duty Marine double majoring in international security and conflict resolution as well as Arabic and Islamic studies, he’s also a member of SDSU’s Student Veterans Organization.
Marine SSgt. Robert O'Berg at the October 16 War Memorial ceremony.
“This is definitely great news,” the 27-year-old native New Yorker said of the expansion plans. “I think it’s only right to recognize the sacrifices of those currently in Iraq and Afghanistan because they fight for some of the same beliefs that veterans of the previous wars have. I think this will actually bridge the distance, age-wise, between some of the older members of the alumni with the younger ones who have served and are continuing their education here.”
Now that a design has been agreed upon, the necessary funds to complete the addition will need to be raised. In the meantime, the War Memorial Committee has already put together funding for an educational kiosk to be located approximately 45 yards west of the existing memorial. It will feature details and history of the monument and is expected to be erected well before next year’s War Memorial ceremony.
As to the memorial itself, Dominguez said he never expected to have to create an addition. “Hopefully,” he wished, “the names will never go all the way around this new expansion and we won’t have to build any more memorials.”