Among a handful of events marking time through the year at Culver is the longstanding tradition of the Memorial Day Gold Star Ceremony.
Read aloud in the Memorial Chapel are the names those 429 Culver alumni who have made the ultimate sacrifice during times of conflict, from World War I to the global war on terrorism.
Culver Military Academy observed Memorial Day at least as far back as 1901, though earlier events honored lives lost in the Civil War.
World War I left a lasting mark on Culver in a variety of ways, from buildings like Legion Memorial, to events like November’s Veterans Day ceremony. The war led to the first Gold Star Ceremony on Memorial Day, 1919, the first such holiday since that bloodiest war to date had ended, the previous November.
To honor the Culver men who died in the war, Culver created a Gold Star Flag which played a central role in the ceremony from its inception.
“The ceremonies here, the tribute to the new standard, the new gold star service flag, followed by the passing in review…” -The Culver Vedette, 1919
I hope that every Memorial Day will now be hallowed by this service flag of golden stars to which all succeeding battalions will pay their tribute.
Head master Capt. F.L. Hunt, in presenting the new Gold Star flag in 1919, said: “These stars will call to the future generations of Culver men to carry on the realization of what it means to be a Culver man…
“Because of the tremendous meanings of these lives that have gone and of the symbolism of these gold stars I hope that we are today establishing a custom that shall endure…
“I hope that every Memorial Day will now be hallowed by this service flag of golden stars to which all succeeding battalions will pay their tribute.”
For several years after World War I, the ceremony was accompanied by tree plantings in honor of Culver’s war dead, often by dignitaries and high ranking military officials. Part of the ceremony was recreated in Indianapolis for the closing scene in the 1932 Universal movie, Tom Brown of Culver.
The ceremony was outdoors-only in earlier decades until the 1951 dedication of the Memorial Chapel, after which it was moved there for the spoken portion of the ceremony, before the flags and salute which continue to take place outdoors.
And so, as Capt. Hunt said at that first Gold Star ceremony so many decades ago, Culver graduates “have gone out into this great world to struggle by the hundreds, and by scores lie here and there, at home and in the shell·tossed fields of France, dead for the cause of the nations.
“For every Culver student who catches the spirit of those Gold Star men,” said Hunt, “Every name on that radiant list will be the name of a friend.”