Published: August 09, 2005
Three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients returned to their alma mater on
Thursday, Aug. 4, for the unveiling of honorary plaques that detail The
University of Tampa graduates’ brave deeds during the Vietnam War.
red-carpet event brought military officers, local dignitaries and campus
officials to the Vaughn Center Crescent Club to honor the three national heroes
– Harold A. Fritz ’75, Ronald E. Ray ’72, and James A. Taylor ’72 – and to
celebrate the creation of a new Hall of Military Honor, a corner of the campus
library where the plaques will be displayed.
While it is rare – perhaps
unprecendented – for a non-military school to claim three Medal of Honor
recipients, it is more unusual still that all three UT recipients are living.
Since its inception in 1861, more than 90 percent of the Medal’s 3,440
recipients have received it posthumously.
During the event, all three men
expressed gratitude for being honored. They displayed humility about their
military service awards and spoke fondly of their time at UT, which each
attended through aid from the military’s “Bootstrap” tuition
Fritz was awarded his Medal in 1969, six years prior to his UT
graduation. The event brought the Illinois native back to Tampa for the first
time in 30 years.
“Walking in here, it’s like being home again,” said
Fritz inside Plant Hall prior to the event. “I want to go to
Fritz said that while attending UT there was still much debate
about the war. He said that he appreciated the campus environment, which
promoted candid, yet rational, discussion.
“You just got a good feeling
about the campus,” said Fritz. “You felt that the environment was right for
learning and that people were here to help the students.”
Ray, who was
awarded his Medal in 1966, said that he wanted to reflect attention to other
soldiers who have “served on the ground.” And though he was greatly appreciative
for receiving the day’s honor and praise, he said that it also was important for
the nation to focus on civilian life.
“We have to remember one thing,”
said Ray, a resident of Tarpon Springs. “We are a country protected by our
military, not dominated by it. That’s the key.”
Taylor, who also was
awarded his Medal in 1966, expressed a desire for those who might visit the Hall
of Military Honor and see the veterans’ portraits.
“I hope that the young
men and women who view our faces go beyond that,” said Taylor, who traveled from
California for the event. “Look and see what we represent and what we stand for.
Because the men and women have to understand today that freedom does not come
without sacrifice. Freedom is not free. It is a privilege.”
The Hall of
Military Honor plaques will be located on the first floor of the Macdonald-Kelce
Library in the Florida Military Collection Room. Rear Adm. Leroy Collins Jr. and
Lt. Col. Deirdre Dixon, UT’s director of ROTC, were instrumental in creating the