Nov.11, 2009, presentation by Dale Soden, professor of history, campus historian and vice president for planning:
Thank you for coming out this morning to help dedicate this new memorial to Whitworth students and alumni who have died in service to our country. Thank you to the class of 2008 for its generous gifts that made this memorial possible, along with several other donors including Tim Lickness, who fought in Vietnam and then came to Whitworth and graduated in 1973. And thank you to Tad Wisenor (Class of '89) for his work in helping make this memorial a reality. (Note: The memorial is located in the plaza in front of Cowles Auditorium.)
Today on this Veterans Day our thoughts and prayers are still with the families and friends of those soldiers murdered so senselessly at Fort Hood last week. We can only hope that God's grace touches the lives of those who are grieving their loss.
One of the great privileges of studying and writing about the history of Whitworth has been to become more familiar with the stories of the individuals honored with this memorial. So I'd like to share just a little more about each of these four men.
First is Harry Olson: Harry was born in 1896 and grew up near Spokane. His parents were Swedish immigrants who struggled to scratch out a living. His mother worked as a maid and his father worked on a farm near Clayton, which is north of Spokane. Harry worked at the farm whenever he could. He started attending Whitworth shortly after the college moved to Spokane, in 1914. Clearly the pride of the family, Harry loved sports and did well in school. There were hopes and expectations that he would go into the Presbyterian ministry. But Harry was drafted in 1917 and eventually served with the United States Army in France. While serving in the military Harry wrote a remarkable set of letters, mostly to his mother and father, which the family saved.
Harry's letters are great for what they reveal about army food in the First World War and about his faith as a Christian. He quoted hymns in his letters such as "He Leadeth Me," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus."
Harry loved his family dearly and was a sweet soul. On the occasion of Mother's Day 1918 he wrote a letter home that was printed in The Spokesman-Review:
"American mothers, though they are forced to stay at home while their sons see the excitement of the battle lines in France, suffer as much as though in actual turmoil of war and are deserving of as much credit as the men in uniform.
The gallant young men who leave home and go out to conquer the autocratic monster, who is menacing the happiness and peace of the world, are truly doing a patriotic duty and deserve some credit, but they are young and for the most part not troubled with anxiety or cares of life. The mothers on the other hand deserve the real praise, for no one appreciates the sacrifice, nor the anxiety and cares more than mother."
Sadly, Harry was killed on June 16, 1918, when he was filling his canteen and was hit by a German artillery shell; he died on the way to the hospital.
Frank Tiffany was born in 1898 in South Dakota and grew up mostly in Alberta. Frank's uncle, Orin Tiffany, was dean at Whitworth in the 1920s and that's how Frank came to Spokane. He played football, wrote for the newspaper, and saw Ballard Hall burn down in 1927. He graduated in 1929 and went to seminary at Princeton and joined the ROTC. After serving churches in North Dakota and Sandpoint, Idaho, he was sent to the Philippines to serve as chaplain. He ended up serving at Camp O'Donnell, an internment camp that was the final stop for American and Filipino prisoners of war who survived the Bataan Death March (between six and ten thousand POWs died on the march, including one of my own distant uncles. Another estimated 2,200 Americans and 27,000 Filipinos died at Camp O'Donnell).
As chaplain, Tiffany served in this hell-hole and helped organize underground work to secure food and medicine for hundreds of suffering prisoners. Eventually his covert work was discovered; he was imprisoned and probably tortured. Chaplain Tiffany lost his life aboard a torpedoed Japanese prisoner of war ship in 1944. His widow joined Whitworth's education faculty in 1949. Tiffany Chapel would later be incorporated into the new Whitworth community.
Tom Haji was born in 1925 in Bluestem, Wash., near present day Harrington, which is about 50 miles west of Spokane. Tom's father was born in Japan and had come to the United States to work for the Great Northern railroad. In 1933 the railroad transferred the Hajis to Skykomish. Tom and his sisters were active and popular in school. The family moved to Monroe in 1938, but world events were closing in. In 1941 there was a practice blackout in Monroe.
Tom was in high school when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred, and by February 1942 the order was given to relocate all persons of Japanese descent. Tom and his family were sent to Tule Lake, Calif., where they were confined in a Japanese-American internment camp.
But in 1943 the Hajis, because of good behavior, were allowed to leave Tule Lake and go to Spokane to work for the railroad. Tom started attending Whitworth at the encouragement of Whitworth President Frank Warren. Tom became actively involved at Whitworth and played on the basketball team. But in 1944 he became eligible for the draft. He served in the 442nd, the highly decorated all-Japanese battalion. Tom was deployed to Italy just weeks before the end of the war and was killed in action fighting against the Germans on April 7, 1945.
Forrest Ewens: When Forrest was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, we at Whitworth and Gonzaga University grieved his death. Over three years later his memory remains strong in the hearts of us who knew him. Forrest and his twin brother Oaken were students in my history classes and I remember them both vividly. Forrest was loved by his fellow track mates and coaches at Whitworth, as well as by other students. His enthusiasm for life, love of country, love of family, and care for others stand out so clearly when I think of Forrest. Forrest spent some of his early years in Gig Harbor but grew up in Chewelah before coming to Whitworth in 2000. He was a great member of the Bulldog Battalion, the joint Gonzaga/Whitworth ROTC program, where he met Megan, his future wife. Forrest and Oaken, who both graduated from Whitworth in 2004, represent the very best of this country.
Forrest died in Pech River Valley, Afghanistan, when his all-terrain vehicle struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations. We continue to miss him dearly.
Note: Oaken, along with his brothers Elisha and Stephen, are currently serving in Afghanistan.
When we consider these four men together I know that they share many things in common aside from their connection to Whitworth. I very much believe that if they could speak to us now they would stand firmly on the side of hope over fear and cynicism, love over hate, courage over cowardice, humility over arrogance, life over death, and a belief in God over the forces of darkness.
On a day in which people all over the world remember the fallen, we honor all of you veterans that are here that have served our country. We give thanks for your commitment to this country and the ideals for which you stand.
Let me close with a poem first published in September 1914, right after the Battle of the Marne.
Written by Laurence Binyon, the poem is entitled "For the Fallen."
They went with songs to battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eyes steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted.
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We shall remember them.