COLUMBIA — Retired Col. Larry Matthews hadn't been to Crowder Hall in 42 years.
"Just to walk back into Crowder Hall was an honor, and I thought, 'Gee whiz!'" Matthews said. The walls and classrooms looked the same as they did when he was an MU student and ROTC cadet from 1968 to 1971.
Matthews was one of five MU graduates inducted into the MU Army ROTC Hall of Fame Saturday in an outdoor ceremony in front of MU's ROTC building. Inductees also included Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, retired Col. Russell Shelden, Capt. Roy Gray and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin.
Gray was killed in action in 1970 during the Vietnam War. Griffin was killed in action in 2012 in Afghanistan.
The inductees were selected based on:
- Their service to MU Army ROTC;
- The contributions they made to their communities;
- Their national or state prominence; and
- Sacrificing their life or being cited for bravery posthumously.
Chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of the sacrifice the cadets made in service to their country, quoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
"'Duty, Honor, Country' — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be."
The inductees were awarded a plaque that reads "Missouri Army ROTC Tiger Battalion." A dagger attached diagonally to the plaque reads, "Tigers Lead the Way Class of 2013," a reference to the induction year.
"Their families made just as much a sacrifice as they did," Capt. Jared Powell said in closing. Powell, an ROTC instructor, served as master of ceremonies.
The inductees names were unveiled in a ceremony in the Hall of Fame, on the second floor of Crowder Hall.
A cake cutting ceremony followed. The sheet cake was decorated with an airbrushed picture of Crowder Hall. Icing spelled the names of the inductees and read, "2013 Mizzou Army ROTC Hall of Fame."
Shelden sliced the cake down the middle with a military saber. "Minimal destruction," he said when he finished. "Looks good enough to eat."
Shelden entered MU as a student in 1938. At the time, students were required to join ROTC for the first two years they attended the university.
"I was born with a tiger on my diaper pin," he joked during Deaton's remarks.
Shelden graduated in 1942 from MU's ROTC program. He supported combat operations during World War II, including during the Battle of the Bulge, and was a clinical professor in the MU School of Medicine's Department of Anesthesiology for 25 years, beginning in 1957.
"(This is) one of the greatest awards that I've ever received," he said. "Little did I know that in September 1938, when I was a freshman at Mizzou, first year ROTC, that I would ever attend an occasion like this. I am truly overwhelmed."
Humility was a common theme running through the inductees' comments.
Linda Smart received the award on behalf of her late husband, Capt. Roy Gray, who was killed in action in Vietnam on April 27, 1970.
"He would be very pleased and appreciative," Smart said.
They were married in 1964 and have two surviving children.
"It feels very good because with his loss coming in Vietnam, and at that time soldiers serving there were not recognized as they should have been," Smart said. "So it feels good that where he began his military career is where they have come to honor him and it also means a great deal to my children."
Pamela Griffin received the award on behalf of her late husband, Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, who was killed in action on Aug. 8, 2012, in Afghanistan. She also said it was an honor to receive the award. "It means a lot to our family that he's being honored in this way. It shows to us the impact he made on so many lives."
Capt. Powell contacted her through the Facebook memorial page set up to remember her husband in order to ask permission to nominate him for the Hall of Fame.
Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel acknowledged the sacrifices his wife had made for his career. In his 32 years of military service, he was deployed twice, once to Fort Sill, Okla., from 2002 to 2003 and once to Kosovo from 2008 to 2009. His wife was a single parent during his deployments and helped run the family meat packing plant in Warrensburg.
"It's a lot to ask of them," he said of his family's sacrifice.
He never expected to serve for 32 years and did not expect recognition, he said. He credited his success to the help of mentors.
"I'm humbled and honored at the same time," Alewel said.
Matthews told the other inductees that he felt humbled and privileged just to be in their presence.
Matthews served in Korea from 1974 to 1975 and in Hawaii from 1979 to 1982. He served two tours in the Middle East, the first in Bahrain from 1986 to 1988. He supported Marines in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991. He also served two tours in the Department of Defense, the first from 1983 to 1986.
After serving at the Pentagon since 1998, Matthews retired in February of 2001, just months before an airplane was crashed into the Pentagon's "E" ring, 50 yards from his former office.
He was happy to be back at Crowder Hall to receive the award. As a student graduating from college in 1971, he never dreamed he would receive such an honor.
"I felt pretty humbled," Matthews said.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.