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The Back Story: Veterans Memorial

Students and community came together to bring Las Vegas its first veterans memorial.

UNLV History  |  Feb 19, 2013  |  By UNLV News Center
The sculpture "Fallen Soldier" at the Veterans Memorial on the UNLV campus

The sculpture "Fallen Soldier" at the Veterans Memorial on the UNLV campus. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

With Independence Day fast approaching, it seems a good time to publish again this story providing the background on the university's veterans memorial.

UNLV is home to about 1,100 student veterans and active duty military members and the university has been named a military friendly school for three straight years by G.I. Jobs Magazine. It's only fitting that the campus would have a memorial site dedicated to the men and women who have served and continue to serve for our country.

UNLV's veterans memorial -- the first such memorial in Las Vegas -- sits where the campus' academic malls meet at the base of the stairs leading to the "Flashlight" and Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. The setting offers both visibility and some seclusion to encourage reflection.

The location holds extra meaning for Ross Bryant, now director of the UNLV Office of Veteran Services. On the morning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bryant was commander for the UNLV Army ROTC. He took his cadets running on campus, just past the spot where the memorial sits. "Those 50 cadets would end up going to war."

Dedicated in 2010, on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11th, the memorial was the first of its kind in Las Vegas. The UNLV Student Veterans Organization, UNLV veteran services office, and local veterans groups raised about $5,000 to purchase the bronze sculpture.

Named "Fallen Soldier," the sculpture depicts a boot with a rifle propped inside it and helmet resting at the top, or butt end, of the weapon. The sculpture symbolizes the makeshift memorial that surviving soldiers traditionally assemble in the field from the boots, rifle and helmet of a colleague who dies in battle. The arrangement is also referred to as "Battlefield Cross" or "Battle Cross."

The sculpture is by Richard Rist, an artist and veteran himself. His owns Large Art Company and has installed his life-sized bronze statutes around the country.

On May 25, 2011, the flagpole and flag were dedicated in memory of Jerry Bussell, who had worked in UNLV's Division of Educational Outreach. His widow, local attorney Pat Lundvall, donated the funds for the installation which included wiring and lighting. Bussell was a retired U.S. Army colonel and had been named a UNLV Distinguished Nevadan for his service to the university and the state.

Robert Lynn, head of UNLV facilities, and his crew made sure the memorial was well lit and had the appropriate amount of space around it. Lynn's crew, which has its share of military veterans in it, donated the time to install the memorial.

Bryant noted that memorial is a reminder "that the UNLV community appreciates the sacrifices made and remembers that all of our freedoms are protected by brave men and women."

About the UNLV Veterans Memorial Statue

  • Artist/Creator: Richard Rist
  • Year Installed: 2010
  • Dimensions: height (including base): 44 inches; width (of base): 18 inches; front to back: 22 inches
  • Made of: Bronze