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MU honors veterans with memorial stone

Friday, November 11, 2011 | 4:54 p.m. CST
Kaitria Sievers, member of the Student Unions Program Board, lays a commemorative wreath to honor veterans under the Memorial Union tower on Friday. The Veterans' Wreath Laying Ceremony took place at Memorial Union because of the tradition of paying respect to MU veterans under the tower, dating back to 1926.

COLUMBIA—At the first chime of MU's Memorial Union bells, the crowd of nearly 100 people fell silent. The color guard marched in carrying five flags that swayed in the wind.

The echo of the last bell's clang hung in the air as the crowd, softly at first, joined in singing the national anthem. Even students passing by on their way to and from classes stood still with their hands over their hearts.

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After 24 years in storage, the American War Mothers’ Memorial stone was rededicated at noon Friday at its new location east of Memorial Union.

It has been 81 years since a group of mothers gathered on Oct. 25, 1930, to dedicate the memorial stone and seven trees that represented the 117 MU students who died during World War I. As part of that first ceremony, soil from university campuses from all 48 states, as well as 11 countries, was spread beneath each tree.

The memorial, located on Rollins Street, was removed in 1987 as part of a street widening project. Until a suitable site could be found, the stone was placed in storage and remained there for nearly a quarter of a century.

During that time, the university had three different directors in landscape services, said Karlan Seville, manager of communications for Campus Facilities. But it was the current director, Pete Millier, who found the stone and suggested that it become part of the MU campus once again.

"We wanted to wait to find the right spot to put it in," Seville said.

The monument now rests between Gwynn and Stewart halls in the shadow of the Memorial Union tower, which was also built and dedicated in honor of the 117 World War I soldiers.

"We actually used some of the limestone stairs (from Memorial Union) in the design of the new memorial," Seville said, referring to when the building's steps were refinished.

The memorial was completed over the summer. "At first we thought we'd do an event on October 25th, the day it was first dedicated," Seville said. "But it was so close to Veterans Day, and we had the idea to combine it with the wreath-laying ceremony…it just became this much bigger event."

As part of the ceremony, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Nelda Bleckler, outgoing national president of American War Mothers, removed the black and gold cloth that covered the stone.

"It was hallowed ground then, and it is hallowed ground today," Deaton said.

At the close of the dedication, the crowd followed the color guard to the Memorial Union archway for the annual wreath-laying ceremony. "Taps" played during a moment of silence as the red, white and blue wreath, dotted with tiger striped ribbons, was presented.

Following the ceremony, Columbia Postmaster Pamela Davis and Alex Waigandt, Purple Heart recipient and MU professor, unveiled the new U.S. Postal Service stamp that honors recipients of the Purple Heart.


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