Gold Star Hall Ceremony celebrates 2 major anniversaries


Kennedy DeRaedt/Iowa State Daily

ROTC students Jackson Koster (graduated) and senior Colin Long sing the National Anthem at the Gold Star Hall Ceremony. The Gold Star Hall Ceremony was held Nov. 12, 2018 in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. The ceremony honored three fallen WWII service members, and celebrated the one hundred year anniversary of the end of WWI and the ninety year anniversary of the Memorial Union.

Sara Petersen

One hundred years ago on Sunday, bells rang out all across the nation. People cheered, participated in parades and celebrated the end of the first World War. Ninety years ago, the Memorial Union was built in remembrance.

This year, both events were recognized and celebrated at the Gold Star Hall Ceremony on Monday.

The Gold Star Hall Ceremony was held in the Great Room of the Memorial Union. This annual event serves to remember and pay tribute to fallen servicemen who graduated from Iowa State.

“This event is for the hopes, dreams, and the loved ones these men left behind,” said Captain Scott Curtis, professor of Naval Science at Iowa State. “All that is good in the world is, in some small part, due to their sacrifice.”

Daryl Drake was on the ROTC staff in the 90s at Iowa State and has been attending the Gold Star Hall Ceremony for several years.

“This is such a great way to honor the veterans who were also students at Iowa State University,” Drake said. 

The three servicemen who were remembered this year were William Howard Butler, Robert Vance Rannells and Richard Wayne Suesens. All three men served in World War II.

William Howard Butler grew up on a farm, attended a one-room schoolhouse and enrolled at Iowa State for the purpose of joining the ROTC. Butler then joined the Army Air Corps three months after the Pearl Harbor attack. He successfully completed 16 missions to neutralize Japanese forces, and rose to Lieutenant rank in December 1943. In July 1945, Butler’s plane crashed shortly after takeoff in China, where he was stationed.

Robert Vance Rannells also grew up on a farm, and spent his time either working, hunting, or being with his cousins. He enrolled at Iowa State in 1938, and worked at the college newspaper, “The Daily Student,” in 1941.

In 1943, Rannells joined the Air Corps and got married to his college sweetheart. Rannells was an aircraft radio operator, and guided his crew through 20 successful bombings. His 21st mission was to bomb Tokyo during World War II in 1945. However, the aircraft went down before arriving to Tokyo, and crashed in the water.

Richard Wayne Suesens grew up playing sports in school, and enrolled at Iowa State in 1937. In 1938, he enlisted as a Navy cadet. Suesens got married in 1940 and moved out west with his wife to where he would be stationed in the Navy.

Suesens was a well-trained pilot who placed steel plates at the bottom of as many aircrafts as he could to protect against enemy fire. On the second day of the Battle of Midway in 1942, Suesens and his team of 9 flew into battle.

Suesen’s aircraft, along with several others, caught Japanese enemy fire. Only two pilots survived. Suesens was pronounced killed in action, and six months later, the USS Suesens was named in his honor.

“The Gold Star Hall serves as a living memorial to those who serve our country,” said Steve Winfrey, director of the Memorial Union.

The words “For thee they died” are etched in an ISU coin given to the family members of the servicemen that are remembered each year. Those same words are etched into the wall in the Gold Star Hall, serving as a reminder of the sacrifice of these Iowa State servicemen.