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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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The names of Eulis N. B. Wilkes Jr. and Willis Preston Smith are newly inscribed. The names of Eulis N. B. Wilkes Jr. and Willis Preston Smith are newly inscribed.

Two Names Added to Campus War Memorial

Another fallen veteran from the Vietnam War and one from the Korean War were added to the monument.

It took just a few minutes on a sun-drenched Friday morning to complete the mission undertaken by San Diego State University’s Student Veteran Organization (SVO) many months ago.

Past and current members of the SVO were on hand June 18 to witness the addition of two names to the SDSU War Memorial. Funds for the addition were raised by the SVO.

Unusual design

One of the few free-standing structures of its kind on a college campus, the War Memorial was dedicated in 1996 to honor alumni who died in service during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

As the names Eulis N. B. Wilkes Jr. (Vietnam) and Willis Preston Smith (Korea) were etched into the stone monument, SVO Treasurer Jay Burris discussed the group’s hope to raise around $50,000 for an expansion that could accommodate the names of SDSU alums killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Expanding the monument

The SDSU Alumni Association's Veterans War Memorial Committee turned to the designer of the original monument, former SDSU art professor Jesus Dominguez, for a solution to expand the monument. Of Dominguez’s sketches, the most popular with committee members incorporates a half circle around the west side of the original granite monolith allowing for names to be inscribed on both sides.  

“(The original) was the concept of shattered life and the new one is similar,” Dominguez explained. “The edges are rough and shattered, just like the top (of the original).  Aesthetically, the expansion curves around because anything straight would have broken up the circle. This allows for a kind of natural (circular) movement.”

New names revealed

According to research by historian and SDSU librarian Robert Fikes, almost half of those memorialized on the original monument were pilots. The list includes not only the names of alumni killed on the front lines of battle, but also those who died in accidents while on active duty here and abroad. The three youngest casualties were all 19 and the oldest was 41.

Fikes has also found the names of several Aztecs killed in post-Vietnam conflicts, including Navy Lt. Florence Bacong Choe (’01), who lost her life in Afghanistan.