President's Memorial Day Message 2021
Dear Members of the Kent State University Community,
On Memorial Day we see our cemeteries and local monuments ablaze with the colors of the American flag. We take in the fragrant, earthy scent of newly planted geraniums in manicured beds of freshly laid mulch.
As our senses are awakened by these stirring displays, I hope that they also kindle in our hearts and minds a true remembrance for those who have served our country and a deeper respect for their sacrifice.
This Memorial Day, I am specifically remembering U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf, a 2009 graduate of Kent State’s Army ROTC program, who was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2011.
Ashley served on the Cultural Support Team, which was attached to the Army Rangers and Special Forces that searched Afghan villages to gather intelligence. Her job, and that of other women soldiers on her team, was to build relationships and to help break down cultural barriers among the Afghan women and children – work that male soldiers could not carry out without offending the Afghan people.
Ashley became the first Cultural Support Team soldier killed in combat when the assault force she was traveling with triggered an improvised explosive device.
Her story inspired the 2015 book, “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and has been considered for a motion picture script. Here on the Kent Campus, Ashley has been remembered with a 5K run that raised money for scholarships for other outstanding ROTC students.
I never had the privilege of meeting Ashley. She was killed the year before I arrived at Kent State. Yet through others, I have learned much about her strength of character, tender nature, ever-present smile and, most of all, her willingness to put service to her country above all else.
Like so many others, Ashley made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and though Oct. 22 will mark 10 years since her passing, I know that her legacy of service will always live on in our Kent State community and, I believe, among those whose war-torn lives she touched thousands of miles away.
Today, as we gather with friends and family to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer, I hope that we will take a moment to remember those who sacrificed their lives in service to our great nation. This year, especially, I include in that group the many health care workers and first responders who lost their lives to COVID-19, while working in service to the health of our nation.
On this Memorial Day, may we remember and honor all our beloved dead, and never forget their sacrifice and service.