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Memorial Day holds special meaning for Sun Devil veterans


Commemorative sign honoring soldiers on the Tempe campus
May 23, 2012

On May 28 the nation will celebrate U.S. active duty military, veterans and those whose lives have been lost in combat.

Arizona State University will pay homage to service members by having commemorative signs and flags placed in the Student Union on the Polytechnic campus, the Registrar’s Office at the West campus, the Registrar’s Office at the Downtown Phoenix campus, and south of the military dedication wall by the front entrance of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

Around the university, Sun Devil pride is always held in high regard, however the utmost honor is given to those Devils who have served in our nation’s military. These individuals combine bravery and strength with unwavering ASU style.  

As an Infantry Specialist in the United States Marines, RJ Mitchell completed deployments and two combat tours of Iraq. It was a during one of the tours to Fallujah, Iraq, that Mitchell earned the coveted Navy Cross for his heroic acts against terrorist forces.

Now a student at ASU, Mitchell says he is grateful for the educational opportunities provided to veterans and the shared bond of Sun Devils.

“There is a lot of pride at ASU," Mitchell says. "It is great to be able to be a student and be around other veterans who stand up for our freedoms."

As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, Mitchell cannot help but think of those comrades whose lives were lost in battle while he was in the service.

“The day has a lot of meaning for me. When I was in Iraq on my second tour, we lost 233 Marines total from our unit, and on the first day of fighting in Fallujah we lost one of my best friends,” he explains. “To know that they gave up their life because they were doing what they had to do to protect the guy next to them and complete the mission is amazing.”

To help ease the pain of his friend's passing, Mitchell plans to stay busy during the holiday weekend. He says that although he will always be missed, focusing on other projects helps him get through the “solemn day.”

Former U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Christian Rauschenbach now serves as the ASU Veteran Services program manager in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. For him, the holiday serves as a reminder to value the lives of those around him, and the daily freedoms that, for many soldiers, have come at a high cost.

“As a former pilot in the Air Force, I often think back to the many troops we brought into and out of combat areas," Rauschenbach says. "To me, it was always hard to fathom the reality of landing in war-torn areas, like Afghanistan or Somalia, only to come home days later and run an errand in town in an environment of total peace. That still hits home for me today: Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are buying that peace, day by day, for us and for others.”

It is on this special holiday that we as a country must band together and give thanks to the heroes in our community who have served or lost a loved one in combat.

Rauschenbach adds: “May we always stay mindful of them, particularly of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we so easily take for granted.”