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Monday, September 25, 2023

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War Memorial on Aztec Green (Photo: Jim Brady) War Memorial on Aztec Green (Photo: Jim Brady)

Veteran Support Part of SDSU’s Identity

A military history program, assistance with career transitions and a lasting memorial are among the ways the university honors those who have served their country in uniform.
By SDSU News Team

Each year during Homecoming Week, San Diego State University hosts a commemoration ceremony at the campus War Memorial to honor veteran alumni who have died in service during the nation’s military conflicts. The ceremony consists of reflections about the monument and the sacrifices it represents, laying of wreaths by those who wish to contribute, and a reading of each name etched in the monument by members of the Student Veteran Organization.

The War Memorial, a 25-foot-high Sierra White granite monolith, displays the names of 239 Aztecs who lost their lives in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was designed by SDSU art professor emeritus Jesus Dominguez with a jagged top to represent lives cut short by war. It was funded by SDSU Alumni’s War Memorial Committee and dedicated Nov. 23, 1996. 

Only a small number of U.S. universities have a war memorial as prominent and a student-veteran population as large as SDSU’s. 

But the War Memorial and ceremony are only pieces of the university’s deeper commitment to supporting student veterans. 


At the beginning of World War II, San Diego State College geography professor Lauren Post made a promise to the young Aztecs leaving for military service that the campus community would not forget them. 

For 48 months, he and a group of volunteers published letters from the soldiers—along with news from back home—in a magazine-style broadsheet with the simple name, the Aztec News Letter. The volunteers collected donations to sustain the publication and mail it to every combat theater where Aztecs were stationed.

Today these letters are part of the World War II Servicemen’s Correspondence Collection in SDSU’s Special Collections and University Archives.

Established in the 1920s as a repair base, Naval Base San Diego expanded quickly during World War II. As the nearest campus to the base, San Diego State Teachers College became a center of military activity. Just days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the government stationed military personnel on campus. They left in early 1942, as the threat of another attack faded, but reminders of the war were everywhere.

In 2008, SDSU became the first in the California State University system to open a Veterans Center. Three years later, it was named the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center after the couple whose $1 million gift endowed it. The 4,000-square-foot space is a full-service center for SDSU’s military-connected students.

Ongoing commitment

More than seven decades later, SDSU continues to be a campus of choice for military students, veterans and their dependents. SDSU currently serves more than 4,100 military-affiliated students, including veterans, active duty reservists and dependents.

Earlier this year, SDSU became the first public university on the West Coast to have an interdisciplinary program in modern U.S. military history. Announced June 11 during a presentation aboard the USS Midway, the USS Midway Foundation made a $3 million, five-year pledge to create and fund an endowed chair in modern U.S. military history at SDSU. 

A popular program for veterans, Troops to Engineers, transitions military men and women into engineering careers. The university also boasts a Military Ally Awareness Program, which explores the unique characteristics of the military and veteran community, and the Women Veterans Success Program, established in 2016, to assist female veterans with personal growth and professional development.

Throughout the years, SDSU continues to honor and provide a home for those who serve in our nation’s military as well as recognizing the contributions of all those connected with the military and veteran community.

Veteran Support Part of SDSU’s Identity
SDSU continues its long history of supporting student veterans.