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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


USS Arizona Mall memorial opens

Logan Cook

 Small American flags snapped crisply on the UA Mall in the breeze, outlining the shape of the battleship U.S.S. Arizona on Sunday. Over 500 people attended the 3 p.m. dedication ceremony of the new USS Arizona Mall Memorial, spilling out of the 355 provided seats and onto the surrounding sidewalk.

The day’s narrator, GySgt Brian Tuthill, of the UA NROTC unit, started by describing the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. As he finished, two fighter jets from the 47th Fighter Squadron, stationed at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, performed a flyover.

The crowd applauded and cheered as Lt. Cols Stephen Sztan and Dylan Thorpe roared over the memorial, flying east to west.

RELATED: The history behind the Student Union Memorial Center’s nautical architecture 

The UA NROTC presented the colors and hoisted the American flag high above the memorial as UA’s a capella group Dolce Voces performed the national anthem. Tuthill said the flag, which will fly 24/7 over the memorial, has only flown in one other place—above the wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

After the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, wearing everything from full Naval uniforms to the UA Pearl Harbor memorial football jerseys from earlier this year, Maj. Christopher Reeder, Deputy Wing Chaplain at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, provided the invocation.

“We’re here in remembrance of the date that will live in infamy,” Reeder said. “We pray for those serving today, bless them and keep them safe. We also pray for peace.”

Reeder reflected on the fact that most of those lost on the USS Arizona were between 18 and 25 years old, the same age as most of the students at the UA.

Stephen Evans, rear admiral and commander of the Naval Service Training Command, followed Reeder and told stories of the bravery and courage seen on the day of the attack, saying it was an honor to recognize fallen American heroes.

“Imagine the smoke, the flames, the rush of torpedoes,” Evans said. “Think of the thousands of stories never told, the letters home never finished. Their sacrifice can never be truly measured, but it can certainly be appreciated.”

Evans said 23 sets of brothers died on the USS Arizona that day, and even more people lost a brother, but continued to fight.

“If you have the opportunity to speak to one of these survivors, take it,” Evans said.

After Brian McNiff, Fred Fox School of Music doctoral candidate, sung the Navy Hymn, UA President Ann Weaver Hart thanked all those who made the memorial possible.

“This installation will help all of us remember the sacrifice of the USS Arizona’s crew,” Hart said.

U.S. Representative Martha McSally spoke next, paying tribute to those who have served.

“We are forever connected, and there is nothing more fitting than a visible memorial,” McSally said. “We’ve got to continue on with their legacy and honor them.”

After the names of eight Arizona servicemen who died on the USS Arizona were read and the USS Arizona’s bell tolled for each of them, the 1,177 medallions were unveiled, each bearing the names, rank and home state of the sailors and marines killed on the USS Arizona.

Robby Johnson, an active duty member of the Air Force, attended the ceremony because his grandfather served in the Navy.

Johnson, also part of three veterans organizations, the American Legion Riders, the Patriot Guard Riders and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the memorial awe-inspiring and breathtaking.

“It’s a great monument,” Johnson said. “And as long as young ones take the time to learn about it, they won’t forget the sacrifices that led to this.”

RELATED: USS Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner comes to UA

Korean War veterans John Danner and John Warth were at the ceremony with the Fleet Reserve Association, which helped fund the memorial.

Danner, who served on the USS Chourre between 1952 and 1953, said the memorial was fantastic.

“A college is the perfect place for a memorial because students need to remember the sacrifice,” Danner said.

Warth, who served on the USS Oriskany between 1952 and 1954, agreed.

“The trick is to make students realize what this is all about,” Warth said.

Marco Mariscal, a psychology junior at UA, thought students would definitely do so.

“It’s a really nice memorial,” Mariscal said. “I think it’ll be crowded, and that students will stop and read the medallions. I think it’s going to bring back interest in the USS Arizona, because the union is a memorial, too.”

The medallion plaza sits where the center foremast of the USS Arizona would be in the 597-foot long outline of the warship’s deck. Over 440 donors from 17 states helped pay for the cost of construction, which was around $150,000.

Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.

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