Iowa State University recognized a group of servicemembers for the first time today, even though it’s been many years since they died at war. The Gold Star Hall in the I.S.U. Memorial Union honors those students who died at war with their names engraved on panels that line the wall.
A 1963 I.S.U. graduate and Vietnam vet, Jim Olberding, has worked from the kitchen of his Ames home to identify the new group. Olberding is searching for those who only attended Iowa State and then went on to give their lives for their country.
By cross-referencing names of Iowa fatalities with registrar’s lists he found 17 servicemembers from the Vietnam conflict alone. He says it’s not surprising that students back then would start college and then end up in Vietnam.
Olberding says, “Half of them were draftees and some of them may have enlisted maybe not figuring they wouldn’t be in the infantry, and most of them did die in the infantry, by the way. I’m confident that we’ve been able so far to determine all the ones from the Vietnam war who are from Iowa who have attended in one way shape or form Iowa State University. That’s not yet the case from Korea.”
The Vietnam-era records are digitized making them easier to search. But for those who died in earlier conflicts, lists of the dead must be matched to records mostly still on paper, which Olberding is working on now. Olberding says he’s getting help from the Memorial Union and the registrar. But he says it’s going to take time.
Olberding’s project answered a long puzzling question for Lyla Schroeder of Hancock, Iowa. Schroeder’s brother, Roger Carroll, attended I.S.U. in the fall of 1968 before the draft reached him. He was killed in Vietnam a year later and received the distinguished service cross. Schroeder says her whole family considers her brother a hero
“I have three sons who went to Iowa State, and nieces and nephews. They had always asked why his name wasn’t on the wall,” Schroeder says, “I thought it was because he hadn’t graduated. I think it means a lot now. ” Schroeder says her son walked through there the other night and saw them engraving the new names and asked him to take a picture of them engraving her brother’s name.
For now the Korea lists are taking up most of Olberding’s free time. And he’s working on lists of those who were not native Iowans. He says who attended Iowa State from Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois. “That’s my little hobby, to try and find these folks,” Olberding says. The Gold Star Hall is on the north side of the I.S.U. Memorial Union.