As a naval aviator for 20 years, flying during the Korean and Vietnam wars, UNC alumnus Thomas Bryan did his part to serve his country.
Bryan returned to campus Thursday to honor 787 of the fallen soldiers and Tar Heels who will be remembered permanently through a new memorial, which was dedicated between Phillips and Memorial halls.
"It's important so the reason they gave their lives for will not be repeated," said Bryan, who graduated from the Naval ROTC program in 1946, just six years after the program's inception at UNC.
Bryan was one of about 100 who gathered by Memorial Hall to dedicate a new campus memorial honoring UNC alumni killed during war, from the Civil War to the Gulf War.
No UNC alumni have been killed in the Iraq war.
Although the University has memorials commemorating alumni who died in different wars throughout U.S. history, the "Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of Those Lost in Military Service" is the first to honor all alumni who have died in wars.
The memorial lists the names of the alumni in a bronze Book of Names, which contains empty space for the names of others who might be lost in future wars.
"Each of them once walked on this campus . and strolled on Franklin Street on warm spring evenings," Chancellor James Moeser said at the event. "They were all Tar Heels, as we now are Tar Heels."
The memorial - which was designed by Maggie Smith - also consists of 10 trees, a sidewalk engraved with 16 quotes and a red sandstone bench inscribed with a quote from alumnus Thomas Wolfe's book, "Look Homeward, Angel."
Alumnus Robert Eaves, who came up with the idea for the campus memorial, said he thought of it while visiting the American cemetery in Normandy, France.
"It's about the sacrifice these people made," Eaves said. "They should never be forgotten."
Eaves worked with a committee to raise $300,000 for the memorial, most of which was donated by ROTC alumni.
Jane Smith, associate director for university events, who organized the event, said the outcome was worth the effort.
"I've seen students and everyone reading all the quotes, and I believe that it's generated a lot of interest on campus," she said.
Dale Smith, a 1966 alumnus who was in the ROTC, said the memorial should motivate students to think about what is at stake every day.
"It's a good reminder for people to think of those who once were students and to think about their friends who are with them today."
Contact the University Editor at email@example.com.