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Members of the LSU Corps of Cadets present the colors during the Chancellor's Day Parade held May 1, 2008.

LSU Strives to Carry out Rich Military Traditions

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      Memorial Day  
      Acting Chancellor Jenkins reviews the Corps of Cadets.
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      Memorial Day  
      Images of the 2008 Chancellor's Day Parade.
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Day after day, students, faculty and staff pass the dark granite wall located at the center of LSUís campus. On a sunny day, one might pass it and see their reflection, but does anyone ever look at the top surface of the LSU War Memorial and see what is really reflected? Itís the names of those who have bravely fought and died in the wars that have affected so many throughout the years. Some of those etched names date back to the universityís early years, when the only students at the Ole War Skule were military men.

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College dates back to the early 1800s, when the U.S. government gave Louisiana several land grants to form a seminary of learning. Its official opening was later on Jan. 2, 1860, as the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, located near Pineville. With several closing and re-openings because of obstacles such as the Civil War in 1861, the invasion of the Red River Valley in 1863 and destruction by fire in 1869, the institution relocated to Baton Rouge and was officially named Louisiana State University in 1870.

Remembering the universityís origins in Pineville, students and alumni took with them the name and traditions of the Ole War Skule. The initial rituals, drill and ceremony experiences and barrack living were all challenges that prepared and inspired so many young men at the time, and they wanted these same opportunities and experiences to be remembered and honored in years to come.

“It has long been known that LSU prepared more than 13,000 of its cadets to enter World War II as young officers trained and equipped to lead America’s armed forces,” said Randy Gurie, executive director of the Cadets of the Ole War Skule. “LSU and Texas A&M continue to debate which institution, after the military academies, can claim the distinction of having contributed the most officers to World War II. But, if you ask any present or former the Cadet of the Ole War Skule, the answer is a resounding ‘LSU!’”

With the continuance of a rich military prevalence over the years at the university, students and alumni from the original campus formed the Cadets of the Ole War Skule in 1955. The organization, when originally formed, was limited to those cadets who began their LSU experience on the old campus downtown. It provided a way to ensure that future generations would never forget the military heritage of LSU. They held annual meetings and events to gain encouragement and participation from other cadets and LSU supporters, in particular students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Over the years, the membership level of the Cadets of the Ole War Skule began to dwindle because many of the limited number of original members had passed away or were not physically able to participate. Also, during the late 1960s, the ROTC program moved from a compulsory to a voluntary program, thus reducing the number of cadets in the corps. As with many other groups or organizations through the years, there seemed to be less need for the type of support provided by the Cadets of the Ole War Skule.

“It wasn’t until 1993, with the encouragement of then Chancellor William E. ‘Bud’ Davis, that discussions began concerning the possible rebirth of Cadets of the Ole War Skule,” said Gurie. “In 1995, Cadets of the Ole War Skule was officially reorganized and began its efforts to honor and preserve LSU’s rich military heritage and its work to strengthen the LSU Corps of Cadets. While Chancellor Davis was the catalyst of this significant rebirth, Cadets of the Ole War Skule continues to receive the support of the upper leadership of the campus, the LSU System and growing numbers of LSU military alumni.”

Today, LSU and the Cadets of the Ole War Skule co-host annual events such as LSU Salutes, the Chancellor’s Day Parade and the LSU Memorial Day Ceremony. These events offer a visible remembrance of the soldiers who have proudly served in America’s armed forces and gave their lives to preserve our freedom.

LSU Salutes is an official university celebration honoring LSU’s military alumni and other veterans. Each year, new inductees are honored, and their names are added to the Hall of Honor for military alumni. These inductees are selected based on their involvement with the university, as well as with the military and community. Upon completion and opening of the LSU Military Museum in Memorial Tower, the names of all those inducted into the Hall of Honor will be appropriately displayed as part of the permanent exhibition.

LSU Salutes is scheduled for the weekend of the home football game nearest to Veterans Day and includes the Hall of Honor induction ceremony, a military parade, static displays, a wreath laying and a 21-gun salute, all occurring at the LSU War Memorial on the Parade Ground. Inductees are also recognized during pregame ceremonies at the home football game that same weekend, with special a special half-time performance by LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland.

Each year, near the end of the spring semester, the LSU chancellor hosts the Chancellor’s Day Parade, featuring and honoring the LSU Corps of Cadets. The ceremony, which has been a part of LSU history since the school’s inception in 1860, is an opportunity for the chancellor to re-assert the university’s commitment to a military presence at LSU and express support for ongoing efforts to strengthen the Corps of Cadets. The commandant of cadets uses this event as the official Change of Command Ceremony when a new corps commander officially takes command of the LSU Corps of Cadets.

Rounding out LSU’s yearly military celebrations is the LSU Memorial Day Ceremony. Held on May 30 each year, the ceremony is the university’s official ceremony to honor former LSU students and all veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of the United States of America. The wreath-laying ceremony is a tribute to those whose names are inscribed on the Wall of Honor at the LSU War Memorial.

This year’s LSU Memorial Day Ceremony will be on Friday, May 30, at the LSU War Memorial on the Parade Ground. The ceremony in silence will begin as the chimes in Memorial Tower strike noon. The event will include the laying of a wreath and the playing of "Taps", followed by a moment of silence. Taking part will be university officials and representatives of LSU ROTC and the Cadets of the Ole War Skule. Following the ceremony, attendees are invited to a “Dutch treat” luncheon at the LSU Faculty Club. The cost of the luncheon is $15 per person, and reservations are required. Those planning to attend the luncheon must R.S.V.P. no later than Wednesday, May 28, by contacting the Cadets of the Ole War Skule in Memorial Tower at 225-578-0420.

These events, along with other ceremonies and meetings throughout the year, are ways that LSU’s Cadets of the Ole War Skule are continuing to preserve and promote those ideals and experiences passed on to them from past generations. Although it is no longer a requirement for all male students to participate in ROTC programs, LSU still has an impressive number of cadets, both male and female, in its ROTC Army and Air Force programs. Each semester, the university commissions its ROTC graduates as second lieutenants in the Army and Air Force, and this semester’s cadets made up one of the largest combined commissioning classes in 10 years. It should also be noted that, although LSU does not have a Naval ROTC program, a number of LSU students are commissioned each year through Southern University’s Naval ROTC program.

“Cadets of the Ole War Skule is committed to those goals and objectives which will serve to strengthen and increase the size of the LSU Corps of Cadets,” said Gurie. “The academic and leadership potential of cadets entering the ROTC programs continues to increase with each new class. Because of these future leaders, the LSU Corps of Cadets, Cadets of the Ole War Skule, LSU and our nation’s armed forces will be the fortunate beneficiaries of the talent and leadership characteristics of these future military professionals.”

Abigail Gravois | Editor | LSU Office of Public Affairs
Spring 2008

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