War Memorial Pylons Ceremony

Images of the engraved names on the Pylons are given to family members of the fallen, Nov. 15, 2019.

The names of six alumni were engraved into the War Memorial Pylons in a dedication ceremony Nov. 15. Friends and family of those honored gathered alongside the Corps of Cadets and many other members of the Hokie community to remember six men who died while enlisted..

Attendees of the ceremony congregated at the War Memorial. Following music by the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, Cadet Mame Ngom invited a friend or family member of each of the six servicemen to speak on their behalf. The parties of each were then invited to remove the temporary tape to reveal the names engraved into the Pylons forever.

Norman R. Hurst studied animal husbandry during his time at Virginia Tech. Following his graduation in 1952, Major Hurst flew 90 missions in Vietnam as a combat pilot. He was killed in a training exercise in September 1969 when his aircraft caught fire at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Capt. Michael Hurst, son of Maj. Hurst, spoke on behalf of his dad at the dedication ceremony, recounting the honorable character his dad embodied.

“It [was] a great ceremony [that] espouses everything that stands for the Corps of Cadets and Virginia Tech. I am extremely grateful and honored that they put my dad’s name on the Pylon,” Hurst said.

Fletcher L. Lewis graduated from Virginia Tech in 1965 after studying chemistry and physics. While serving in the Army in Vietnam, Spc. Lewis died in a small arms fire in January 1968. Friend and classmate Larry Weatherford Jr. spoke Friday, telling many stories of Lewis’ life.

After studying mechanical engineering, William L. Sloop graduated with his degree in 1967. Lt. j.g. Sloop was killed in August 1969 at Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Florida during a collision of aircrafts mid-air. Toni Sloop Staplin spoke on behalf of her late husband at the dedication ceremony.

Sgt. William E. Hawkins studied biology and animal science in the class of 1971. Hawkins died in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, while serving as a medic in the Army. He was killed when a grenade hit his helicopter in May 1970.

Hawkins’ nephew Josh Coffman spoke in remembrance of his uncle Friday, expressing the delight it was for his family to be invited to the ceremony and the opportunities that arose from it. The engravement of his name into the Pylons prompted them to visit his grave and reconnect with family friends to honor the life of Sgt. Hawkins.

Jerry W. Smith studied civil engineering and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1972. While taking part in a training mission in January 1974, 2nd Lt. Smith was killed when his aircraft crashed. Phil Shucet, a friend of Smith, shared many details Friday of the life Smith lived.

While at Virginia Tech, Peter A. Kraines studied marketing and was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha. While serving in the Air Force as a special tactics pararescueman, Tech. Sgt. Kraines died Oct. 8, 2019 after a training accident in Idaho. Kraines’ father, Richard Kraines, spoke on behalf of his son. He detailed the countless admirable characteristics of his son and the positive impact his son made on every individual who knew him.

Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, commandant of cadets, spoke of the long-lasting impact the actions of these six Hokies have had on the Virginia Tech community.

“I think today is a reminder of the essence of this university as memorialized in these Pylons and this War Memorial. ‘As I May Serve’ has real meaning to the people whose names are etched here and the families who love them,” Fullhart said.

The dedication ceremony left many reflecting on how these men lived out humble service. In echo of many family members and friends, President Tim Sands shared how the lives of these Hokies stand as a beautiful representation of utmost duty and service to America.

“Gatherings like this are an opportunity to reflect not only on the Hokies that we’ve lost, but on our commitment to service and all that that means,” Sands said. “(This ceremony is) a great opportunity to bring families back that may have not been connected in the last few decades and to honor their loss. It is important for our students ... to reflect on what some of our Hokies have done with their lives and how much they’ve given.”