On Nov. 15, Virginia Tech will add the names of six alumni to the War Memorial Pylons. Five were killed during the Vietnam War era, and the sixth died in an October training exercise.
They are Tech Sgt. Peter Kraines of the Class of 2010, Sgt. William E. Hawkins of the Class of 1971, Maj. Norman R. Hurst of the Class of 1952, Spc. Fletcher L. Lewis of the Class of 1965, Lt. j.g. William L. Sloop of the Class of 1967, and 2nd Lt. Jerry W. Smith of the Class of 1972.
The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. at the Pylons and is open to the public. During the event, the Gregory Guard, the corps’ precision drill team, will perform a rifle salute and buglers will play Echo Taps.
Portions of Alumni Mall and Drillfield Drive will be closed from 2:45 p.m. to about 4 p.m. Alumni Mall will be closed between Drillfield Drive and Torgersen Bridge. The portion of Drillfield Drive that passes in front of the Pylons will be closed between Kent and Stanger streets.
Westbound Alumni Mall traffic will be turned around at Torgersen Bridge. Authorities will be in place to help guide drivers around the closures.
Kraines, who earned a degree in marketing, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduation and was serving as a special tactics pararescueman with the 24th Special Operations Wing. He died Oct. 8 from injuries suffered in a training incident while performing mountain rescue techniques in Boise, Idaho.
According to the Air Force, he was a military static-line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force combat scuba diver, and certified as an emergency medical technician. He also was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct combat search and rescue and recovery operations.
The remaining five men are being added as the result of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and Virginia Tech Alumni Association issuing a call this past spring for any servicemen or women whose names are missing from the Pylons, a memorial that bears the names of students and alumni who died defending our nation’s freedom, beginning with those lost during World War I.
Hawkins attended the university from the fall 1967 through fall 1968 to study biology and animal science. He died on May 26, 1970, while serving in the U.S. Army as a medic with the 326th Medical Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. During a rescue and recovery mission, his helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in Thua Thien Province, Vietnam.
Hurst graduated from the university in 1952 with a degree in animal husbandry and went on to be a combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, flying some 90 missions in North Vietnam. He died Sept. 15, 1969, while serving as an instructor pilot with the 4457 Combat Crew Training Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. He was killed after his aircraft caught fire during a training exercise.
Lewis attended the university from fall 1961 through spring 1966 to study physics and chemistry. He was killed while serving in the U.S. Army with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Gia Dinh, Vietnam, on Jan. 31, 1968, as the result of hostile fire.
Sloop earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering 1967. He died Aug. 21, 1969, while serving in the U.S. Navy with Attack Squadron 44 at Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida. During advanced pilot training, his aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision.
Smith graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1972. He died Jan. 23, 1974, while serving in the U.S. Air Force with the 550th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base. His plane crashed during a ground attack training mission.
In November 2018, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors passed a resolution to create a policy on adding names to the war memorial. The action formalized the long-standing tradition held by the Corps of Cadets as the guardians of the Pylons. To be added, a person must:
- Be an alumnus of Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech Alumni Association defines an alumnus as a person who attended the university for at least one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).
- Die in the line of duty while serving in the U.S. military during a war or state of conflict designated by Congress.
Adding a name to the Pylons is a lengthy and collaborative process. Verifications of enrollment, death, and military records confirming a line-of-duty death must be made before the commandant of cadets and the vice president for alumni relations sign off on the addition.
The last name added to the Pylons was that of U.S. Navy Ensign Sarah Mitchell of the Class of 2017, who died during a training exercise in 2018. Mitchell’s was the 432nd name added to the Pylons and the first woman.