The Tech Veterans Resource Center (VRC) unveiled the newly constructed Veterans Walk of Honor display during an official opening ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The event focused on Tech’s deep ties to the United States Armed Forces since its founding and the stories of service members who also attended Tech.
High-ranking administrative officials spoke at the event, including President Ángel Cabrera, Kim Harrington, Executive Director for Student Engagement and Wellbeing, Micheal Shannon, University of North Georgia President and former Tech administrator and Micheal Bauby, fourth-year CE and President of the Student Veterans Association.
Speakers and attendees, including donors and veteran alumni, gathered in the Gossage Atrium of the Ford Environmental Science Building for a performance of the national anthem by the Glee Club at Georgia Tech and speaking engagements.
Flanked by the American flag, Harrington spoke to the those in attendance about her department’s commitment to creating an inclusive community.
“We strive to create a community where every individual — all students, regardless of their background or experience — can feel, experience and know what it’s like to belong,” Harington said.
Cabrera used his time at the podium to highlight Tech’s numerous connections with the United States military,
both past and present.
“The history of Tech is intertwined with the history of the U.S. military. As long as there’s been a Tech, we have been incredibly proud of educating new leaders in the military, [and] supporting those leaders with the right technologies to keep them safe and to make sure they can do their job,” Cabera said.
According to Cabrera, the Institute currently has about 1,000 military-connected students and 150 active service members. He also mentioned that seven of the 12 presidents of Tech came from military backgrounds.
“[Tech] maintains a productive partnership with Dobbins Air Reserve Base and Robins Air Force Base, and hundreds of millions of dollars every year come from all branches of the Department of Defense to the Tech Research Institute and some other research projects,” Cabrera said.
He highlighted one Tech student veteran, Rupert Barnett Jr., who served as an Army private first class and lost his life driving Nazi forces out of eastern France during World War II. Cabrera also described a new tradition in Tech’s France campus where students visit Barnett’s grave to honor his service.
After Cabrera’s comments, he turned the podium over to Shannon, who left Tech last year as the Interim Executive Vice President Administration and the Finance Interim Chief Business Officer to become the next President of the University of North Georgia.
Shannon told the Technique that he returned to the Institute, where he had worked for almost eight years, specifically for this event because of his background as an Army officer and his connection with starting the project. Indeed, Cabrera credited Shannon with “[leading] the charge to create the Walk of Honor.”
Shannon used his speaking time to highlight more individual stories of Tech students who had a military background.
One such story that showed Tech’s multitude of military connections to the military was that of Tyler Brown, whose family was also in attendance.
“Jackets and veterans are a connection — they’re an intersection. The best example we have is the heroism of Tyler Brown … a young man who did it all here at a high level. [He was a] double major, incredible Cadet in ROTC and Student Government Association president — he did it all. He also said, I’ll go, send me, and he went overseas, and he didn’t come home,” Shannon said.
Shannon also highlighted each of the five Medal of Honor recipients who attended Tech, each of which is recognized in the display with a plaque. According to Shannon, two of the five Tech Medal of Honor recipients, Leonard Wood and Thomas McGuire Jr., have been honored by the military by naming bases in their honor.
“[This project] is important to me because we need to have a place where every human being that comes to this campus knows the commitment of Jackets to service, the commitment of Jackets to America. Yes, we’re national champions. Yes, we have Dodd and Heisman, and yes, we have Butker and Calvin Johnson and all of these folks, but we also have American heroes who spilled their blood for this country and represented this place,” Shannon said.
Bauby closed the event by expressing his gratitude to the Tech administration for recognizing and providing resources for the community of non-traditional students on campus.
“The addition of the Walk of Honor serves as a daily reminder of the service and sacrifice of our fellow Jackets, and I am hopeful that it inspires others to serve. … I’d like to express my sincere appreciation towards David Ross and the Veterans Resource Center,” Bauby said expressing gratitude for campus leadership.
After the speaking engagements, all attendees exited the building to watch a performance by the University of North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Rifle Drill Team who were invited by Shannon to honor Tech veterans and the final reveal of the plaques and signs that form the walk of honor.
David Ross, the Director of the VRC, told the Technique that the walk of honor was another example of the Institute’s continued investments in its veterans. Ross said that after the founding of the VRC, alums and staff approached him about a place to go to recognize student veterans.
But it wasn’t until Shannon approached Ross that it became a reality. According to Ross, the two men were in his office discussing the idea one day when they looked out the window of the Veterans Service Center and realized they could place their envisioned memorial there.
The Walk of Honor consists of plaques celebrating specific service members previously located by the Wardlaw Center, dedications to each branch of the armed forces and signage displaying eight core values of the United States military: commitment, integrity, honor, courage, respect, duty, valor and service.
Ross and Shannon discussed future developments to the walk, including using a large screen display that rotates stories of Tech veterans and has the potential for smartphone interaction.
John Traendly, ME ‘68, MS IM 72’, one of the top financial donors for the VRC, told the Technique he wanted to support the center after hearing feedback from student veterans during a scholarship endowment process. Thanks to Traendly and donations from others, the VRC opened its doors in 2020, according to Ross.
Ross said that the VRC has worked to support student veterans using their mission to engage, enable and employ. This mission includes connecting students to campus organizations and each other as veterans, as well as helping students get in contact with the right on-campus resources when they need help.
According to Ross, student veterans often visit the center throughout the week to use it as a study and group hangout spot to build connections with other non-traditional Tech students. Ross hopes that those who pass by the new Walk of Honor to and from the VRC or wherever they may be going are affected by it.
“[The Walk of Honor] is to show the connection between Tech and the military, but I also like to think of it as a place to reflect and inspire students, not just our student veterans but anyone,” Ross said.