In a tradition that goes back to the first Gulf War, staff at Plymouth State University have honored student soldiers called to active duty by posting their names in a public space in the University administration building.
Today, 36 plaques adorn two walls in the Bursar’s Office, flanking a display case holding a flag and medallion presented to the staff and the University.
Additional recognition occurred Nov.16, when Brig. Gen. Stephen Burritt, commander of the New Hampshire Army National Guard, joined by guardsmen from several units, including Sgt. 1st Class Cheryl Nolan of Plymouth’s own B Battery 2/197th FA., meet with Bursar’s staff and PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, to present each a unit service challenge coin embossed with an emblem of the Old Man of the Mountains.
President Steen described the commemorative wall as “ … a very personal reminder that this war is not an abstraction—it’s very real.”
Lt. Col. Ralph Huber commented, “You are supporting all of us, whether PSU students or not when you do this. It is great to actually see the plaques here. …These 18, 19, 20 year-old soldiers are making a difference. They are the diplomats out there, and it’s an incredible responsibility. For these folks, it started here at PSU.”
Huber also noted that PSU student soldiers and other N.H. guardsmen went to the Southern states after Hurricane Katrina and to southern New Hampshire during last year’s floods.
Brig. Gen. Burritt thanked the staff for recognizing the student guardsmen, and spoke about their role in the southern states after Hurricane Katrina and in southern New Hampshire during last year’s floods. He said, “The Guard is about helping our neighbors—we were one of the first units to arrive.”
President Steen concluded, “That kind of service is what this recognition is intended for, and we’re grateful. Our University motto is Ut Prosim, ‘That I May Serve,’ and it’s especially fitting that at this time we are honoring those students who are serving.”
The tradition was begun in 1990-1991 by former registrar Nick Mathis of Plymouth, who is now retired. Mathis created a banner on a dot matrix printer in support of students called to duty, and strung it across the Registrar’s Office window. Other offices hung yellow ribbons.
In recent years the tradition was picked up by Associate Bursar Susan Landroche of Ashland and Bursar Laurie Wilcox of Rumney, who used technology to create an individual plaque in the name of each student as he or she is called up.
Referring to one of the students who has returned from service, Nolan said, “Shelly loves to visit your wall. He says, ‘Hey, I’m on the wall. What do you think of that!’”