Gold Star Hall Ceremony honors fallen alumni

ROTC cadets present the colors during the Gold Star Hall Ceremony on Nov. 9 in the Memorial Union.

Alex Connor

All eyes fell to the front of the hall as the color guard presented flags to the hum of the national anthem.

The annual Gold Star Hall Ceremony took place at 3:15 p.m. Monday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union to remember the men and women who died in service.

The Gold Star Hall, through which more than one million people will pass each year, remains an active memorial to the ISU alumni who gave the ultimate sacrifice, from World War I to the most recent Global War on Terrorism.

To begin the ceremony, Richard Reynolds, director of the Memorial Union, opened with a short history of the ceremony.

“Today we continue the act of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country,” Reynolds said. “The Gold Star Hall Ceremony celebrates the lives of those who served our country so selflessly.”

Reynolds said the ceremony is about telling the stories of individuals, not about human conflict or the justices and injustices of war.

The individuals honored in this year’s ceremony were Ted Rule and John Pooler from the Vietnam War, and Walter Wilson from World War II.

Thomas Hill, senior vice president for Student Affairs, then took over the podium.

Hill, who had served in the military, said he always feels honored when he is asked to speak at occasions such as this one.

While speaking about the men honored at the ceremony, Hill said he can’t help but think that they became a part of the fabric here at Iowa State.

“We are honored to call [the men honored] our own because that’s how we feel about them,” Hill said. “They were and will continue to be part of our community.”

Lt. Col. William McTernan of the Air Force ROTC unit and Michelle Aberle, junior in event management and student veteran, provided a few words after Hill’s speech.

“[These veterans] knew that life is not about us, that God gives us our abilities and talents not for ourselves alone but for those that we come in contact with every day,” McTernan said.

After McTernan talked more about success and servant leaders, Aberle took the podium.

Aberle, who visited Iowa State around her junior year of high school, mentioned the one thing from the visit that stuck out the most: the Gold Star Hall. Coming from a family of service members, Aberle said the Gold Star Hall tells a story of freedom and ultimate sacrifice to your country.

“The names written on these walls were brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, father and mothers and daughters and sons who were taken from this Earth too soon,” Aberle said. “These students and alumni answered the call to serve and gave the ultimate sacrifice.” 

Lt. Col Ethan Dial began the honoree remembrances to the veterans being honored at the ceremony after Aberle’s speech.

Ted Rule

“Ted Rule was by all accounts an exceptional person and friend,” Dial said.

Born on March 24, 1943, in Marshalltown, Iowa, Rule credited his hometown to Cresco, Iowa, and was characterized by an old friend as someone “who was always there when you needed a helping hand or a swat on the rear.”

Rule, who was active in many leadership roles in high school, was involved in basketball, football, track, the class play, student council, band, yearbook staff, glee club, wrestling and speech.

After graduation, Rule attended Iowa State for three years and was in the ROTC program for two years. He then enlisted in October 1968 and arrived in Vietnam on Nov. 7, 1968.

Rule sacrificed his life Nov. 29, 1968 while “engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force.” Rule was a part of the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry, 2nd Battalion, A Company.

“When he died, he went in style, doing his job the best he knew how,” said John Kramer, an old friend of Rule’s. “There isn’t a man in this room, if given the choice of how he was supposed to leave this earth, would choose any other way, doing the best he knew how.”

John Pooler

Less is known about Pooler, who was born Sept. 14, 1944, besides the fact that he was known as a “strong, dedicated, brave American soldier.”

Introduced by Dial, Pooler served in the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry, 2nd Battalion, A Company, and lost his life on the same day as Rule.

Pooler, who was from Wheaton, Ill., graduated from Iowa State in 1967 with a degree in industrial administration.

Drafted as an infantry man, Pooler was part of the first group of men to be deployed in Vietnam. He died while attempting to save the life of a fellow soldier.

Walter Wilson

Jathan Chicoine introduced Wilson, a World War II veteran from Lake City, Iowa.

With his family, his sister Marjorie Wilson-Webster and wife Pauline Wilson, in the crowd, Walter was remembered through words written by the two.

The stories about Walter recalled what he meant to his friends and family and the legacy he left behind.

“Walt was unusually smart and he was loving and humble and the whole family adored him,” Chicoine read.

Walter, who married Paulin before his deployment and had a single daughter, Carol Wilson Heiden, went missing in action in Osaka, Japan, on July 24, 1945.

Marjorie remembers vividly the day that he had gone missing, as her family had been on a drive when they heard of bombings on B-29 aircrafts, which Walter had been working on.

Walter’s daughter, Carol, sang “Climb Every Mountain,” by Peggy Wood. A moment of silence later took place for the lost alumnus.

The ceremony ended with the playing of “Taps,” by Paige Nieland, and the retrieval of the colors.

Special thanks was then given to the ISU Gold Star Committee: Reynolds, Kristin Erdman, Rod Simpson, Kathy Svec, Jim Oldberg, Chicoine, Dan Buhr, Dial and McTernan.

“The only thing I’m sorry about is that it didn’t happen a long time ago,” Marjorie said about the ceremony. “But you know, this is life.”