Located at the center of the Washington State University campus is the WSU Veterans Memorial. On the memorial are engraved the names of Washington State students, faculty, and staff who served their country in violent conflicts that took place far from the peace and tranquility of the Palouse. Each name represents a life sacrificed either in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War or the Global War on Terrorism.
Behind each name is a story.
The series began Memorial Day 2007 to convey some of the stories connected with the names on the memorial. All had an association with Washington State Athletics in some manner. Beginning Veterans Day 2008, the scope of the series was expanded to include Washington State student-athletes who have served, or are serving, our country.
The series is not only written to honor the Washington State students who stories are told, it is dedicated to each name on the memorial, and to their stories.
To better appreciate the stories contained within the memorial, it is helpful to understand the story of the memorial itself, and the man responsible for its creation. Part one of the series tells their story.
The second installment of the six-part series focuses on a war that has become overlooked by many people today. The advancement of time may diminish the memories of the country's first major conflict of the 20th Century, but not its significance. This is the story of one Washington State College student-athlete who left the school as a national champion, and died a national hero.
Hero is a word that is often overused, especially in the athletic arena. In the case of Ira "Chris" Rumburg, it is an understatement. This is his extraordinary story.
In July 2001, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story honoring a Vietnam War hero, and, in the process, inadvertently brought the story of a former Washington State College football star, and Vietnam War hero himself, back to prominence; so much so that he earned a place in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
On the east side of the Washington State University Veterans Memorial are plaques, set adjacent to each other, displaying the names of the Washington State students who fell in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf wars. Directly across these plaques is a plaque, set alone; etched at its top are the words "Global War on Terrorism." Below it are four names of WSU students who gave their lives in Iraq. The four are among the over 4,000 United States servicemen and servicewomen who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq since October 2001. Three of the names are Jaime Campbell, Brian Freeman, and James Shull. This is the story of the fourth.
Thompson, Rypien, Rosenbach, Bledsoe, Leaf, Gesser. For Cougar football fans, these names stir fond memories of exploits on the gridiron. But the rich quarterback history that Washington State football is known for extends far beyond the aforementioned contingent. The story of Archie Buckley exemplifies this fact.
When Trandon Harvey caught a short pass from Alex Brink and raced down the left sidelines for the winning touchdown in the 2005 Apple Cup, Darrin Friberg, as many Cougar fans like him, stood and cheered wildly. However, Friberg has more of a connection with the Cougar Football team than just a cheering fan; in a way, as he has given to his country, Cougar Football has provided Friberg a realization of a dream.
Lee Orr's accomplishments as a track and field athlete at Washington State College earned him a place in the school's hall of fame. His accomplishments in life earned him a place in world history.
There have been over 800 letterwinners in Washington State baseball's history. Many members of this elite group earned letters in multiple seasons and moved onto the professional ranks, while others earned a letter for one season. Jack Holsclaw was one of the single-season letterwinners in 1938. But his story and life were defined by much more than the 1938 season he played for Washington State College; as he went on to serve with distinction in World War II flying for the famous Tuskegee Airmen.
Who is the greatest athlete in the history of Washington State Athletics? Would 1916 Rose Bowl MVP Carl Dietz come to mind? The story about the Washington State legend transcended beyond his accomplishments in the athletic arena, though it is a story that ended much too soon.
At its surface, the legacy an athlete receives in the history books of Washington State Athletics is dictated by how they are represented in the school's records book. But dig deeper in the school's history books and names are revealed of athletes who did not have an opportunity to stake their claim to the records book, as fate had other plans. Jack Kelleher is one of those athletes.
Dave Minnich stood outside the tunnel. Ahead of him lay the Martin Stadium field, behind, his energized Cougar Football teammates, waiting to unleash two weeks of pent-up fury. Surrounding him were thousands of cheering fans. Above the din, Minnich, who served in the Marines from 1994 to 1998, heard a member of the WSU ROTC say, "Make us proud." "That was the last thing I heard and out we went," Minnich remembers.
Pride. This is what past Cougar Football player Wendell Smith sees when the Cougar flag flies on ESPN Gameday. It's been a while since Smith has seen the WSU flag fly on the Gameday show, but he sees the American flag fly daily, serving with the Marines in Afghanistan.
As a student at Washington State College, John Hurley earned respect as a member of one of the greatest teams in Washington State history. It was his actions a decade later that earned him respect and admiration from Washington State College and an entire nation.
Part XVI: Returning Home
Past Cougar Football fullback Earl Brenneis played in one of the historic games in Washington State history, one day before the day that will live in infamy. Over seven decades after his playing days and service in World War II, Brenneis returned home to WSU.