Medal of Honor memorial to be built this fall - The Daily of the University of Washington

Friday, August 7, 2009

UW alumnus John “Bud” Hawk earned a Medal of Honor for his actions near Chambois, France, on Aug. 20, 1944, during the Normandy campaign, which led to the surrender of more than 500 German soldiers, and is one of seven UW alumni that have been identified as Medal of Honor recipients.

Photo by Courtesy Photo.

A digital rendering of the proposed Medal of Honor memorial on the UW campus.

This fall the UW — holding the highest number of Medal of Honor recipients in the United States, excluding military service academies — plans on commemorating Hawk and the six other UW alumni Medal of Honor recipients by building a memorial in the traffic circle on the south end of Memorial Way, near the flag pole.

While the Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government, recipients, such as Hawk, deflect the recognition away from their individual accomplishments.

“I was only one of 16 [million] to 18 million people serving [in World War II]. You do the best you can for the people around you, and they will do the best they can for you,” Hawk said.

He also said that he never did anything more than the people he served with.

When asked about his accomplishments, Hawk spoke ambiguously about his actions and redirected the conversation to focus on service and the selfless actions performed by many of his comrades.

Hawk’s humility is perhaps one of the core characteristics that will be featured in the UW memorial; indeed, the design will feature a five-pointed star and five words that embody the characteristics of a Medal of Honor recipient. University officials are working with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to determine which words will be selected for the completed design.

The memorial was originally projected at $110,000, but the actual costs were increased to $150,000.

“We wanted to use top quality work and materials for this memorial,” said George Zeno, executive director of scholarships and student programs. The memorial is completely funded through private donations.

The public dedication is expected to draw high-profile dignitaries including past Medal of Honor recipients, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam Wars, UW veterans of the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Gov. Chris Gregoire, senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, congressional representatives and key financial donors to the project.

NBC news anchor, Brian Williams, has been asked to emcee the public dedication.

Zeno, who has worked extensively on the Medal of Honor project, emphasized that, despite the deserved attention this project is anticipated to receive, many of the Medal of Honor recipients want the memorial to recognize service, not individual achievements.

“A number of [Medal of Honor recipients] will tell you … they never asked to be a hero,” Zeno said. “And humility is one of the biggest characteristics of a recipient. They will tell you they were just doing their jobs. Their actions weren’t about heroic actions; they were about doing everything they could for those around them.”

University officials are finalizing plans for a memorial commemorating Medal of Honor recipients who graduated from or attended the UW. The memorial will be completed this fall and will be dedicated on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2009.

Reach reporter Michael Truong at

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