West Texas A&M breaks ground on Veterans War Memorial

West Texas A&M University officials and representatives broke ground on the WTAMU Veterans War Memorial Friday. (ABC 7 Amarillo- Abby Aldrich)

West Texas A&M University broke ground on the WTAMU Veterans War Memorial Friday, honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who died while serving their country.

According to Leo Reid, Director of Veteran Services for West Texas A&M, when completed the memorial will feature five benches that are dedicated to the five military branches. Those include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The memorial will also feature flag poles and granite tablets engraved with the names of the fallen veterans from the university.

The names of the fallen from the university's veterans will be engraved on the tablets. According to university officials, the names will include seven from Would War I, 54 from World War II, three from Korea, 23 from Vietnam and one during the Gulf War.

Amarillo Republican Representative John Smithee said the memorial is long overdue and is a great tribute to veterans and their families.

“The entire history of West Texas A&M has produced a lot of men and women who have served honorably in the military of the United States and have been real patriots to this country," Smithee said. "Many have given their lives and so this memorial will certainly honor them in a very appropriate, fitting and overdue way.”

Leo Reid, Director of Veteran Services for West Texas A&M, said the campus currently has around 600 veterans and military affiliated students.

One veteran, Jerry Stone, attended WTAMU from 1963 to 1965, until he enlisted in the Navy on July 22, 1966. Stone tells ABC 7 News that the university holds a special place in his heart.

“I met my wife here at WT," Stone said, "and we had just been married 11 months when I joined the Navy.”

Stone said he spent four anniversaries away from his wife and the two were finally able to celebrate their fifth one together. The Navy veteran said they were only able to communicate in the form of letters and he has kept every single one of them in two duffel bags at home. However, he said he enlisted for the love of his country.

“I see the flag and the Star-Spangled Banner and I get a tear in my eye everytime," Stone said. "I thank the Lord [that] he kept me around.”

Stone said the couple has been married for almost 53 years and plans on coming to the memorial many times when it is completed, to sit on the benches and reflect on his time in the war.

The WTAMU Veterans War Memorial is expected to be completed by May 2018 and is located on the campuses Old Main's southeast lawn.

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