For the Cumberland Times-News
FROSTBURG — In 1967, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. James A. Graham, a member of the Frostburg State Teachers College class of 1963, gave his life in Vietnam following a series of heroic actions that were later found worthy of recognition with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.
On Saturday, Frostburg State University launched the Graham Memorial Project, a living memorial to the fallen hero.
The project began with the dedication of the deck of the Lewis J. Ort Library in Capt. Graham’s honor and the unveiling of a plaque there, but it will continue with the interdisciplinary educational project, “Memorializing Vietnam.”
The educational project will be a semester-long advanced colloquium that will examine the historical, political, social and economic aspects of the Vietnam War.
Following that study, FSU students will work in teams to conceptualize the design of a memorial on FSU’s campus honoring Graham, while taking into account all they have learned about the conflict in Vietnam and its impact on the nation and world.
On Saturday, following the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by members of FSU’s music fraternity, two Vietnam-era CH-46 helicopters from Marine Helicopter Squadron One flew over the campus in a tribute to Graham.
Among those in attendance were Graham’s widow, Janice Clark, Frostburg class of 1964; and their two children, retired USMC Col. John Graham, class of 1985; and retired USAF Col. Jennifer Graham, as well as Col. Robert Golden III, Marine Corps Recruiting Command chief of staff, representing the Marine Commandant.
An honor guard from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 172 presented colors. The event closed with the singing of “God Bless America” and the Marines in attendance singing the “U.S. Marine Corps Hymn.”
A number of James Graham’s Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity brothers were there, as were several Marines who had served with him in Vietnam.
John Graham said the number of people present who had known his father for just a few years, yet “he left indelible images on people that he did not know very long, and here you are 45 years later.”
“Frostburg was extremely important to Dad,” John Graham said.
It was where he met his wife, where he found his Sigma Tau Gamma brothers, and where he found his faith.
“This is where it all changed for Dad here. … That’s why it’s so fitting that Frostburg is the place to tell Dad’s story,” John Graham said.
Retired USAF Col. Donald White, who chairs the project’s steering committee, said the group is determined to follow the wishes of Graham family that this project be about establishing a living memorial “that will instill traditions within the student population: lifelong learning, personal core values of community selflessness, integrity, excellence, service before self and an understanding that humility is an important personal trait.”
James Graham was honored for his heroism when, in June 1967 against heavy odds, he led a unit of Marines in attacking two machine-gun nests in the Quang Tri Province. With the group under heavy fire, Graham ordered his men to retreat, remaining behind with a wounded soldier unable to be moved.
“The one thing that you could count on with Jim Graham was that you could count on Jim Graham,” his son said.
Read more about Graham’s story here: http://tinyurl.com/ Graham-Memorial-Project.
The memorial is a project of the FSU Alumni Association. The FSU Foundation also has two scholarship funds honoring Graham. For more information on supporting the Graham Memorial Project Fund or the scholarship funds, contact the FSU Office of University Advancement at 301-687-4161.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.