Saturday, December 10, 2016

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The memorial is a tribute to former SDSU students killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Afghanistan and Iraq. The memorial is a tribute to former SDSU students killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fallen Aztecs Honored

More than 100 people attended the annual War Memorial Ceremony, a tribute to the 228 SDSU alumni who died in combat.
By Natalia Van Stralen

Six names have been added to the San Diego State War Memorial, bringing the number of fallen Aztecs honored on the granite pillar to 228.

The memorial is a tribute to former SDSU students killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Afghanistan and Iraq.

At the annual War Memorial ceremony, on Friday, Oct. 12, Todd Kennedy, president of the Student Veterans Organization at SDSU, recognized the five fallen Aztecs who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“All five represented the values of honor, courage and commitment,” Kennedy said. “They will be forever remembered, not just for their military service, but also for their support and contributions to their families and communities.”

Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. Oscar Jimenez (’99)

Jimenez, a native San Diegan was a beloved husband and father of three children. He served as a logistics officer during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and later graduated from SDSU in 1999. He died in an ambush in Iraq on April 11, 2004. Jimenez was 34 years old. A scholarship has been set up in his honor by the SDSU chapter of Gamma Zeta Alpha to assist minority high school students bound for college.

Marine Corps Captain Andrew D. LaMont (’94)

SDSU War Memorial
SDSU War Memorial

LaMont was a third generation service member who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He graduated from SDSU in 1994, and served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot who flew missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He was killed in a crash in Iraq on May 19, 2003. LaMont was 31 years old. His hometown of Eureka, Calif., lowered the American flag to half-staff after his passing.

Army Specialist Justin L. O’ Donohoe (’00)

Donohoe was raised in a Navy family in Mira Mesa. He graduated from SDSU in 2000 and began working for the San Diego Unified School District before making the decision to join the Army. Justin qualified for Officer Candidate School but chose to enlist instead. He served as a scout and gunner with the 71st Cavalry Regiment. He died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on May 5, 2006. Donohoe was 27 years old.

Navy Petty Officer First Class Thomas E. Retzer

Retzer grew up in San Diego, was an All-American wrestler, and spent two years studying at SDSU. Thomas left college to serve and eventually earned his place among the elite Navy SEALs. He was killed when his convoy was attacked in Afghanistan on June 25, 2003. Retzer was 30 years old. He left behind a wife and two sons.

Navy Lt. Florence Bacong Choe (’01)

Choe was born at the Navy Medical Center in San Diego, which also served as her home base while she was in the Navy. She received her master’s degree from SDSU in 1997 and served as a medical and logistics advisor to the Afghan Army. She was a beloved mother to her three-year-old daughter and devoted wife to her husband, a Navy doctor. She was killed by an insurgent in Afghanistan on March 27, 2009. Choe was 35 years old.

More about the ceremony

The sixth name added to the memorial is Robert G. Harvey, a bomber pilot whose plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Japan returning from a mission over North Korea on Oct. 31, 1952. This past summer, his oldest daughter, Carlynne Allbee, contacted the SDSU Alumni Association and shared her father’s story.

Until now, only those who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were eligible to have their names listed on the memorial.  The surviving founders of the memorial recently decided to add the names of Aztecs who were lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. All six of the names were added to the memorial on Oct. 4.

Family members watched at the foot of Aztec Green as each of the Aztec service members was honored in a wreath-laying tribute.

Nearly a hundred guests attended Friday’s ceremony, including family and friends of the fallen Aztecs, as well as SDSU students, faculty and staff.

The Navy Band Southwest Brass Quintet and the SDSU Chamber Choir performed, and the keynote address was delivered by Rear Admiral Dixon R. Smith, Commander, Navy Region Southwest.

Other speakers included SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, SDSU President Emeritus Stephen L. Weber, Alumni Association President Bill Earley and Chaplain Chuck Price.

Remembering the Fallen
San Diego State University honored alumni who lost their lives in combat.