MU 'missing man' memorial remembers fallen soldiers

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:08 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The new interactive student veterans memorial is almost finished in the entrance to Memorial Union. Karen Johnson, a senior architectural studies student at MU, designed the memorial to honor MU students who have been killed in conflict. The missing man formation is an aerial salute that honors a fallen pilot. Planes fly in formation but leave the fallen pilot's space empty. Johnson said she wanted to represent that idea with the columns in the memorial.

COLUMBIA — Inside Memorial Union North, columns jut out from the wall across from the archway entrance, reminiscent of those that stand on MU's Francis Quadrangle.

But instead of the six that stand on the quad, there are only five on the wall; a beam of light shining from the floor replaces what would be the second column from the right.

Glass plaques etched with the names of fallen soldiers who attended or worked at MU hang to the left of the columns.

The almost-complete new memorial, designed in reference to the missing man formation, was dedicated last week. The registrar's office will cross-reference names of Missouri soldiers who have died with university records to add more names to the plaques. The memorial will also include a touch screen with electronic access to the Library of Congress and Missouri Veterans History Project so people can learn about past veterans.

The memorial was designed by Karen Johnson, an MU student studying interior design. Her proposed design was chosen in May by the Chancellor's Committee for Veterans and Military Affairs.

Marty Walker, who spearheaded the new memorial project for the committee, asked the MU Architectural Studies Department, which is under the College of Human Environmental Sciences, to design a new veterans memorial.

Architectural studies associate professor Newton D'Souza assigned the task as a four-week project for the 16 students in his 4000-level studio class.

D'Souza said Walker's conditions were that the memorial be cost effective, maintenance free and easy to manipulate, as well as have an accompanying electronic version.

The students were enthusiastic about the project because it came from a real client, D'Souza said.

To give the students inspiration, Walker sponsored a trip to Kansas City to look at war memorials there. Students also used their own time to analyze memorials around the world, such as the Vietnam and Jefferson memorials.

"We had to think about a lot of things that reminded us of war and what it means to give your full measure," Johnson said.

The memorial could have been built anywhere inside Memorial Union, and students chose different spots within it, D'Souza said.

There are already several memorials for MU's fallen veterans throughout the union.

Names of the 117 men who died in World War I are carved on the walls of the archway, according the Museum of Art and Archaeology's website. The north wing was dedicated in 1952 to the 328 male students who died in World War II, and plaques with their names hang in the wing's foyer.

A plaque for MU students, faculty and staff who died in wars from 1945 to 1996 hangs in one stairwell, and a nearby hallway is dedicated to students who have died since the 1990s.

The existing memorials were scattered throughout the building. For the new one, D'Souza challenged the students to condense the names and bring them all to the wall near the entrance of Memorial North. The placement of the new memorial gives it visibility, he said.

"I liked this location because as you enter, you can see the memorial, and it enhances the entrance space, and you don't take up the student areas," D'Souza said. "It connected directly to MU. You couldn't put it anywhere else."

Missing man formation

The missing man formation is an aerial salute that honors a fallen pilot. Planes fly in formation but leave the fallen pilot's space empty.

Johnson grew up knowing about the practice because her father was a pilot in the Navy in the early 1950s, and she lived near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Johnson said she wanted to represent that idea with the columns in the memorial.

"One day I was walking to class past the columns, and I was thinking if one of the columns were missing it would be a big deal," she said. "But if a soldier died, the impact would not be felt as broadly."

Johnson said the columns idea also can bridge generations, which was another goal of the memorial project.

Younger generations can identify the missing column with the missing World Trade Center towers, and older generations can identify it with the missing soldier in formation, Johnson said.

Johnson said that she likes the finished memorial but also that she is sad that in the future, the names of more fallen soldiers will be added to the plaques.

"It's really humbling because of what it represents," she said.

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Skip Yates November 20, 2013 | 8:47 p.m.

Well done, MIZZOU!

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