Since its founding as Decoration Day, the purpose behind Memorial Day has remained “remarkably consistent for the last century and a half,” Col. Harry Tunnell ’79, Ph.D., (U.S. Army, ret.) told an overflow audience at Monday’s Gold Star Ceremony.
Originally established as an official day to honor the Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, it evolved into the Memorial Day in the 1880s, with Culver Academies’ first remembrance being conducted in 1901.
In 1919, it officially became the Gold Star Ceremony when the names of the 85 Culver men who died during World War I were read aloud and the first Gold Star flag was unfurled. “And while the structure has changed over time,” Tunnell explained, “its meaning has not.”
It means Culver men and women are willing to sacrifice all in service to our nation. There are Culver graduates today who are serving or have served in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, said Tunnell, who was wounded in action in northern Iraq, because they know their fellow citizens need their protection.
Culver is special in remembering, though, he said. There are buildings bearing the names of battles and people who died. Recently, he added, a sixth Gold Star was added to the Senior Ring to represent the Global War on Terror.
And, unfortunately, the need to answer the call will always be there because “someone, somewhere wants what others have,” Tunnell said, and their will resort to violence to take that from others. The currency of freedom is needing “well-led people willing to take up arms” in the name of freedom.
Another major milestones will also remind us of this military sacrifice, he added. The 75th anniversary of D-Day will be conducted next month in France. And, for many veterans, not a day goes by when they soldiers and veterans don’t think about their fallen comrades or their personal injuries.
Culver’s institutional memory attaches meaning to the people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, Tunnell added. It teaches the virtues behind service and duty. The number one job we have is “provide the kinds of leadership that makes life better for others. The fundamental idea of leadership to provide something of value to others.” That includes people, organizations, and our communities.
I personally believe that as long as there is a Culver,” he said, “there will be Culver men and women going to do their duty, regardless of the dangers that duty entails.”
Tunnell is currently an IT advisor at Eli Lilly and Company, where he specializes in sensors, wearables, and the Internet of Things strategy development. He received his doctorate in human-computer interation from Indiana University.
His military award and decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge with Star, Master Parachutist Badge with Combat Jump Device, and Ranger Tab. He was the commander of Task Force Red Devil in northern Iraq until he was wounded. After recovering, Tunnell served as the brigade commander leading Task Force Stryker in Afghanistan, which defeated an entrenched Taliban enemy in the southern Arghandab River Valley.