University honors veterans with new park

Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Photographer

Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 8:28 p.m.
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kristen Barnes

Nearly 400 veterans, students and faculty flocked to Kogan Plaza to witness the dedication of the University’s new memorial dedicated to veterans Monday.

GW’s Veterans Memorial Park, which moved from the lawn next to the GW Deli this year, now features a black marble slab emblazoned with the insignias of all five U.S. military branches and an illuminated flagpole to honor former members of the armed forces.

The park came as the result of a donation from Board of Trustees member Mark Shenkman, an alumnus and U.S. Army veteran.

Shenkman said he wanted to fund the new park to appropriately honor GW’s community of veterans and servicemembers, which includes more than 1,000 current students.

“We must never forget the courage, sacrifice and dedication of the men and women who have so bravely served and protected our precious liberty and cherished heritage,” Shenkman said.

Accompanied by his wife and three sons, Shenkman invoked the University’s namesake as a man who “laid the foundation to create the world’s greatest democracy” in the face of adversity.

But Shenkman also paid tribute to his father, Sgt. Geoge Shenkman, who led one of the first American units to charge into Germany during World War II.

University President Steven Knapp said the memorial’s location at the heart of campus pays tribute to the central place of the veterans community at GW and in the University’s history. In 1944, GW student Don Balfour became the first veteran to receive educational benefits under the GI Bill.

“We’re very grateful to all of the contributions that our student veterans are making to the life of our university,” Knapp said. “They continue the mission by leading and inspiring their fellow students.”

Mitch Bent, president of the student group GW Veterans, called the park a token of the University’s commitment to the veterans community.

“Right here, next to this awesome library with this brand new entrance, you walk out from your studies and you see the veterans memorial and it really complements the mission here at GW,” Bent said.

Richard William Douglas, a veteran and alumnus, said he was touched by the University’s decision to move the memorial to Kogan Plaza, where he got his start in the military as an Air Force ROTC cadet.

“We are standing on the actual site of GW’s Air Force ROTC force that I graduated from in 1963. Having the memorial right here on the site is particularly moving,” Douglas, who graduated from the School of Business in 1963, said.