OUT OF OBSCURITY: MSU dedicates Vietnam memorial in new location

Center for America's Veterans Director Brian Locke, left, and Vietnam War veteran Bob Kirkland dedicate a Vietnam War memorial at MSU Friday. The memorial was relocated to the back patio of Nusz Hall, home of the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Center for America's Veterans. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Charlie Benton
Staff Writer

A monument honoring an often forgotten group of veterans was unveiled at its new home on the Mississippi State University campus Friday.

A Vietnam War memorial formerly located between Magruder Hall and Harned Hall was moved to a more prominent, sunlit place on the patio of Nusz Hall, home of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans. The memorial was unveiled in its new location by Center for America’s Veterans Director Brian Locke and Vietnam War veteran and MSU alumnus Bob Kirkland. Several MSU student veterans were on hand for the dedication, as were several Vietnam veterans from local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts.

“When we came back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, we were faced with such hard feelings, and everybody seemed to dislike us so much for just serving our time and going into the military,” said Kirkland, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I only hate that we don’t really have anything to show for it, for all the loss of life and so forth from Vietnam.”

Kirkland said he learned about the statue from a fellow MSU friend and Marine who also served in Vietnam. Kirkland then contacted MSU President Mark Keenum, who supported the relocation of the statue and tasked Locke and Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt with overseeing the move.

“He noticed this monument by Magruder Hall stuck back there, and I never knew it existed,” Kirkland said. “All these years, and I never knew it was there.”

Hyatt said she was glad to see the memorial in its new location, and emphasized MSU’s commitment to supporting veterans.

“Obviously, Mississippi State has a rich tradition of military presence and supporting our veterans and military connected students, and we want to continue to honor and grow that.” Hyatt said. We want to honor and encourage more veterans and military connected students to come to Mississippi State. We feel like we have lots of ways to support them and encourage their success as college students."

Locke said the memorial first came to be in 1990 after advocacy from a former MSU student named Mark Taylor. An Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet and the son of a Vietnam veteran, Taylor pushed for a memorial on the MSU campus. Additionally, Taylor served as the university’s “Bully” mascot during the same time period. Fundraising efforts for the monument began in 1986, with a “memorial-a-thon.”

“He got the student association involved, and through all private donations, this very monument was first placed in 1990 between Magruder Hall and Harned Hall,” Locke said. “Then Mr. Bob Kirkland brought it to my attention that there was a way we could move this monument to a new location here to the Center for America’s Veterans, and through the efforts of student affairs, and even to the president’s office we got approval to move this very monument.”

Locke and Kirkland both said the monument would be good for reminding the current generation of students of what their predecessors had been through.

“For all the Vietnam veterans, this is great,” Kirkland said. “It really is. It’s just so nice to be recognized now after 55 years.”