The Daily Aztec

Student Veterans Organization honors fallen alumni during homecoming week

Lauren J. Mapp

Lauren J. Mapp

by Lauren J. Mapp, Staff Writer

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San Diego State’s military community held a homecoming candlelight vigil and war memorial wreath-laying ceremony on Oct. 19 and 20 in honor of alumni and students who have died during active military duty.

Held at the SDSU War Memorial next to the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, the events are organized each year in honor of the alumni troops who cannot attend homecoming.

Jordan Quinones, an electrical engineering junior and Student Veteran Organization member, said the candlelight vigil was first held seven years ago. During this year’s vigil, which lasted from 6 p.m. on Oct. 19 until 7 a.m. on Oct. 20, members of SDSU’s ROTC, veterans and active duty personnel stand watch for 30-minute increments at the memorial site.

Using 231 luminaries filled with candles to represent the each of the names engraved on the memorial, the event is used as a way to connect veteran students with the campus.

The memorial, however, is actually missing eight names. There are a total of 239 alumni who have died in military conflicts, but the memorial hasn’t been updated.

“The whole idea of homecoming is about Aztecs coming home,’” Quinones said.  “Because there are 239 Aztecs who can’t come home, we want to remember them. They served, they sacrificed their lives for us and allowed us to be able to live the way we want.”

Before attending SDSU, Quinones said he served in the U.S. Navy from 2004 to 2008, then the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2014. He was medically retired from the Army before beginning his studies at SDSU.

“It means a lot to me as a veteran — especially since I have friends of mine who have passed away in combat — that we remember them in this moment,” Quinones said.

Though he is a civilian and couldn’t stand watch, Abdurahman Mohamed, a business administration senior, volunteered to help set up the vigil. He said he wanted to help out with the event to show his respect for what his classmates and fraternity brothers have experienced in the military.

“I don’t think it’s fair in society how we expect people to serve their countries where there’s war going on and expect them to come back to society all normal like nothing happened,” Mohamed said. “I just feel like we’re not looking out for the men and women who are serving our country. Moving forward, I want to continue to help veterans because I have family who have served in the military.”

SDSU Alumni Association’s War Memorial Committee organized the wreath-laying ceremony held on Oct. 20.

Keynote speaker Lisa Shapiro, an assistant business professor from San Diego Mesa College, and the author of “No Forgotten Fronts: From Classrooms to Combat,” was present at the ceremony and discussed the contents of letters from SDSU students and alumni who served during WWII.

“239 names are inscribed here, and they are students who set aside their dreams, served and gave their lives,” Shapiro said. “Their sacrifice preserves our right to read the books in the library and to freely discuss our ideals on this campus quad.”

The SDSU ROTC Honor Guard presented the colors and the Navy Band Southwest Ceremonial Band played the opening and closing music for the ceremony.

Musician First Class Collin Reichow from Navy Band Southwest played “Echo Taps” during the wreath-laying ceremony Oct. 20. He said events like the wreath-laying ceremony show students how their peers may have been affected by participation in military conflicts.

“For me, being a Navy bugler, it’s the most important thing that I can do to pay tribute to the fallen,” Reichow said. “This (event) shows support and shows that it’s not just somebody’s uncle that was in the Army or somebody’s dad that was in the Air Force. Even on a college campus like this, there are people that served their country and paid the ultimate sacrifice — everyone makes a contribution.”

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