When retired Lt. Col. Bill Price taught military science at Furman, he gave his students what might seem like an unusual assignment: research a local soldier from the past.
Though many of their subjects lived 70 to 100 years ago, Price’s students were excited to find they had much in common with the young people who fought in World Wars I and II. They studied the same subjects at Furman, joined the same fraternities and made military service part of their lives.
As he researched, Price found five names of Furman alumni who hadn’t yet been formally recognized on campus for their lives of service and sacrifice. Joe C. Thomas ’50 and Ladson K. Martin ’48 gave their lives in the Korean War, and Thomas Kukowski ’69, Marion E. Reed ’54, and William O. Winston ’68 in the Vietnam War.
Those five soldiers will be honored during a special Veterans Day ceremony with a new memorial plaque that will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Monday, November 11, at Childers Plaza.
Guests for the Veterans Day ceremony will include a host of distinguished Furman alumni, including Lt. Gen. Daniel G. Brown ’68, Maj. Gen. William A. Gantt ’59, Rear Adm. Steven W. Maas ’72, Brig. Gen. C. David Estes ’78, Brig. Gen. James H. Mason ’86 and Brig. Gen. Steven Scott ’82.
“Veterans Day is an important time to recognize those who have helped keep America free,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran, professor of military science at Furman. “It’s a great opportunity for cadets of the Paladin Battalion, to not only honor all veterans, but to reflect on those who also studied here at Furman University before entering the military.”
The timing of the ceremony is in keeping with the traditional Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
The event, hosted by the 2013 Furman University Alumni Association and the Department of Military Science, begins at the flagpole on the Lay Physical Activities Center lawn with a Reveille ceremony. Cadets will have the mission of unfurling and raising the flag while the bugle call known as Reveille is played. The flag to be used also holds special significance for Furman, since the flag was draped over the casket of World War I veteran James Williams “JW” Plyler, a 1913 Furman graduate, and was passed down to his nephew, John Plyler, after James' funeral in 1986.
The ceremony continues with a bagpiper processional to Childers Plaza, where Price will officiate the unveiling of the new memorial plaque. The plaza is also home to Furman’s Doughboy statue and the Walk of Honor, which pays tribute to those who are serving or have served in the United States Military.
The life-size bronzed soldier is a replica of numerous Doughboy statues that were erected throughout the nation during the 1920s to commemorate veterans of World War I. The statue depicts a World War I soldier rushing into battle wielding a grenade in one hand and a bayonet rifle in the other. The first Doughboy statue was erected on the old downtown campus in 1920 as a tribute to six Furman students who died during World War I. In keeping with tradition, the Doughboy faces northeast towards France.
Five hundred and forty Furman men, almost the entire student body of the all-male school, volunteered for service during "The Great War." Six of them -- Pvt. Thomas J. Lyon, Jr., Pvt. Otis Brodie, Lt. John H. David, Lt. Charles S. Gardner. Sgt. Charles E. Timmons, Jr., and Cpl. Talmadge W. Gerrald -- died during the war. Their names are inscribed at the base of the Doughboy. In the late 1940s, a plaque bearing the names of Furman students lost during World War II was placed at the base of the statue.
“Despite the lack of daily drumbeat, there are still Furman graduates in harm’s way every day,” said Price. “It’s important that we set aside this day to continue to honor their sacrifice.”
Furman faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend. The community is also invited to attend the free event. For information, contact the Department of Military Science at (864) 294-2047.