Ceremony Recognizes 60th Anniversary of World War II Memorial

“When asked to defend freedom, these men stepped forward.” Those were the words of Dr. Tony Litherland, commander of American Legion Post 16, as he spoke at a wreath-placing ceremony at Oklahoma Baptist University’s Gold Star Park Thursday morning. Litherland, OBU’s Randal/Scales professor of constitutional law and political science, was speaking of 29 OBU alumni whose names are etched in the marble pentagon memorial at the corner of Kickapoo and University. Members of the university’s class of 1945 presented the park to OBU on May 24, 1945. It is believed to be one of the earliest World War II memorials in the state. “For 16 months, ending in June 1944, OBU trained over 2000 men in the Army Air Force Collegiate Training Detachment. Simultaneously, many OBU alumni were members of the armed forces,” said OBU Archivist Tom Terry at the ceremony. “A total of 617 OBU alumni who were involved in World War II are listed on an honor roll on the east wall of the OBU Historical Collection.” Terry said OBU President John W. Raley led the class of 1945 to develop a memorial for OBU alumni who were killed during World War II. He said in addition to the contributions by class members, many of the churches of those killed in battle made memorial gifts for the project. The Thursday morning ceremony also included remarks from OBU President Mark Brister, a reading of the names of the 29 fallen alumni, and musical tributes on trumpet by Kevin Pruiett, OBU assistant professor of music. The memorial wreath will remain at the park through Memorial Day weekend. A wreath will be placed at the park during OBU’s Homecoming, Nov. 11-12, when the Class of 1945 will celebrate its 60th reunion. “We are thankful for the efforts of the OBU family in the last days of World War II, as they sought to honor the memory of their colleagues who gave their lives on foreign soil to defend freedom,” said Marty O’Gwynn, OBU alumni director. “Events like this ceremony help us to reflect on the great price that has been paid to allow us the privileges we enjoy today.”