Two years ago, University of Arizona student and Army veteran Ricardo Pereyda was invited to spearhead efforts to develop a memorial honoring UA students, employees and alumni who have served in the United States military.
Specifically, he was asked to help modernize an existing campus memorial – located at the Student Union Memorial Center, outside the lower level of the UA BookStores in an area known as the rotunda – where two large plaques already hung, bearing the names of individuals with ties to the UA who lost their lives in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Pereyda’s job was to update those lists with names of UA students, employees and alumni killed in military conflicts since Vietnam. But as he began gathering those names, he became concerned about how to decide who should be included on the wall. He worried that individuals who had died, but not necessarily in combat, would not represented.
So Pereyda decided to take a more inclusive approach, which led to the newest addition to the public memorial – a wall-mounted quote reading: “To all who put themselves in harm’s way then, now, always.”
The quote, installed last month, is one of three new additions to the memorial, all of which will be dedicated during a special ceremony on Dec. 7, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Other pieces to be dedicated include an Arizona state seal and a bronze sculpture of a folded flag, titled “Lest We Forget,” by Sedona-based artist James Muir.
“It’s for those who died, but it’s also a monument for those still with us,” said Pereyda, president of the UA chapter of Student Veterans of America. Pereyda served in the U.S. Army for six years and is now a senior majoring in public management and policy with an emphasis on criminal justice.
Friday’s dedication ceremony will include a series of guest speakers and a presentation by the ROTC joint color guard, as well as a live performance of “Taps” and a recounting of the events of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Refreshments will be served at 10:15 a.m., and the formal program will begin at 10:40 a.m., which is the time that the Japanese left their aircraft carriers on that fateful day in 1941. The event will culminate with the ringing of the USS Arizona bell and a moment of silence at 11:10 a.m., the time that the final torpedo crashed through the deck of the USS Arizona, sinking the ship.
When Pereyda began working on the rotunda memorial in 2010, it included only the two plaques of names, four bas-relief sculptures representing each branch of the armed services and a fountain. Additions to the space since then include the three pieces to be dedicated this week, as well as a memorial bench and three bronze sculptures crafted by Muir. One of the sculptures, titled “Band of Brothers,” depicts soldiers in a jeep mounted atop an actual World War II jeep axle. The second, “Some Gave All,” shows a soldier’s helmet balanced atop a Vietnam-era rifle. The third, “Shield of America,” is a 300-plus-pound replica of the United States crest, circa 1812.
The pieces in the rotunda were donated by Scott Rifkin, Tom and Cheryl Lincoln, Jim and Jeanne Kay Van Houten and the Human Liberty ARTT Foundation.
Glen Lecroix, student director of the UA V.E.T.S. (Veterans Education and Transition Services) office, said he’s happy to see how the memorial has grown over the last two years.
“It’s great that the past and present Student Union directors have entrusted us to make that space something we can be proud of, and that we hope the University can be proud of,” he said.
For Pereyda, helping to develop and expand the memorial has been a humbling experience.
“It’s an honor to feel like I’m helping to give some kind of acknowledgement to my fallen brothers and sisters in the armed forces,” he said.
Tucked away in the lower level of the union, the rotunda may be unknown to many on campus, but Pereyda encourages visitors to stop by to see the artwork and reflect.
“I’d like them to stop and have a moment of silence,” he said, “and recognize the sacrifices that have been made by their fellow citizens.”