CSU Students Seek Correspondence for Military Service Walk Project

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A Servant Leadership graduate class at Columbus State University today announced plans to honor the sacrifices of veterans and their families by establishing a Military Service Walk as part of CSU's Woodruff Park.

"The Military Service Walk will be a place that will evoke emotion and pride in the service of the Columbus-Fort Benning area through the portrayal of their correspondence in eras of conflict," Stuart Rayfield, CSU's Frank Brown Distinguished Chair in Servant Leadership, said at a news conference adjacent to the park, flanked by her Servant Leadership track students pursuing a Master of Organizational Leadership from CSU's Turner College of Business.Submit material

Rayfield said the project "will demonstrate the sacrifices made in military communities" by sharing correspondence between soldiers and their loved ones, inviting the public to submit material. Students read excerpts at the news conference from three examples of correspondence, including one letter to a newborn daughter from a colonel who died during World War II before getting to meet her in person. He wrote:

"We are living in a time now when soldiers must be willing to die for country if there's to be a country."

Also read was the last email that Irene Park received from her brother, Pvt. First Class Benjamin J. Park, before his 2010 death due to injuries suffered in an IED attack in Afghanistan, three days before his 26th birthday:

"... It gets really stressful out here. Tell Mom and Dad that I love them. ... Let everyone know that I am doing OK. Miss you and love you."

Rayfield called the project "a real opportunity to recognize the servant leadership that takes place on a daily basis by our service members and their families."

Students in the CSU class — David Kim, Rebecca Holman, Matt Pierson, Ellie Flowers, Rich Cellino, Darren Fite, Vince Demarest and Kate McCray — are coordinating a public drive to ask the public to submit letters, journals, telegrams, texts, emails, tweets, chats or Facebook messages — any printable communication between those in the military and the people who support them.

Submissions will be reviewed by several groups, and a final selection committee consisting of military representatives, military families, historians, archivists and students will select communiqués that best represent the mission of the project. Select submissions will be permanently displayed as part of the Military Service Walk, and all will be preserved as part of the CSU Archives. The graduate students hope to have several displays of the submissions prior to the final selection and will display many of them on the Facebook page for the Military Service Walk.

While organizers expect many of the submissions will be from Army soldiers and their families, they hope to have submissions from all branches of the armed forces.

"Today, we have a concept," Rayfield said. "Many details have to be worked out. We believe the correspondence will help drive the design."

Columbus architect Will Barnes has designed preliminary renderings of the walk.

Funding for Phase I of the project has already been secured from several local donors, including a large gift from the J. W and Ethel I. Woodruff Foundation.

“We understand and greatly appreciate the sacrifice of those who have served our country in the military — and the families who support them," said Chris Woodruff, the foundation's secretary-treasurer. "We are pleased to be able to support such a worthy project that will help honor those brave men and women and their families.”

Submissions to the project can be made at any branch of Columbus Bank and Trust or by sending email to militaryservicewalk@columbusbankandtrust.com CB&T branches will display a duffel bag with details of the project, including a form for submitting correspondence.

“Recognizing the service and sacrifice of our military and their families is a value we hold deeply at CB&T and we are very honored to offer the entire community an opportunity to do that at any branch of CB&T,” said CB&T President Billy Blanchard said.

Rayfield said students hope groundbreaking for Phase I of the project can occur by Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

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