Fifteen top-tier college football teams play their games in buildings with “Memorial Stadium” in the name, including Nebraska.
But, beyond its name and a pair of Hartley Burr Alexander quotes engraved in the northeast and southeast corners of Lincoln’s iconic Memorial Stadium, the facility lacks a more specific, concrete tribute to the Nebraskans who died in service to their country.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials are searching for the original plaques from 1923 that once adorned the East Stadium entrance, commemorating the 54 students who died in World War I. They’re also working with military organizations to potentially create a larger-scale veterans memorial as part of renovations surrounding the stadium.
Regardless of the university’s ultimate path, addressing this oversight — particularly as the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, the impetus for the naming and original dedication of Memorial Stadium, approaches in 2018 — would be a long overdue and well deserved addition.
Such fitting homage would also place UNL in line with some of its peers that also play in their own Memorial Stadiums.
Texas has a pair of monuments in the north end zone of its stadium, commemorating Texans who fought in World War I and alumni who fought in all American wars. Clemson’s Scroll of Honor lists graduates who were killed on military duty. Illinois lists the names of students who died in World War I on the pillars surrounding its Memorial Stadium.
These memorials ensure that the sacrifice of military service is far greater than that seen during football contests. In a sport that often uses the terminology of war to describe its action — and routinely ties patriotism into its pageantry — such commemoration puts the adjacent games into perspective.
For those who have never attended a Nebraska football game, the national anthem is punctuated by a military flyover streaking across the sky during the marching band’s final notes. The team then rushes onto the field, led by a Husker carrying an American flag. The pilots are honored on the field during the game, too.
Displays of that nature are no doubt fitting, but they’re only fleeting. Nothing about them is permanent.
Memorial Stadium is officially dedicated to Nebraskans who served in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and those who died in World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, according to the Nebraska Athletics website. That mention, however, isn’t accompanied on site by something to perpetually memorialize the ultimate sacrifice and that freedom is far from free, even in the Cornhusker State.
As such, UNL is on the right track and should continue pursuing plans to install a war memorial at Memorial Stadium to forever enshrine a tribute to Nebraskans who lost their lives in service to their country.