Chances are that at some point, as you walked across campus, you stopped at least briefly to read a small plaque affixed to one of the granite lampposts that dot the landscape. Each honors a Baylor alum who was killed in action in service of our country; if you’ve ever wondered their story beyond the 20 or so words on the plaque, this is your book.
It started with that sense of wonder. “Who was this person? What happened to them?” Frank Jasek, BBA ’73, isn’t a writer by trade. Nor is he a veteran, having been deemed “4F” during the Vietnam War. But those questions intrigued him after he noticed one of the lampposts one day, and it started him digging. Fifteen years later, his efforts have reached their conclusion in the publication of Soldiers of the Wooden Cross: Military Memorials of Baylor University.
The 323-page, hardcover book lovingly tells the story of each of the Baylor veterans killed in service who are honored on plaques across campus. Civil War and World War I veterans (recognized on plaques in the Texas Collection) each have brief entries, but the meat of the book are the tales of the 145 Baylor alumni killed in service during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraqi Freedom who are honored on memorial lampposts that light the campus.
Each receives a two-page spread in the book (see example above), anchored by a narration telling whatever parts of the veteran’s story that Jasek could dig up. Family photographs, letters to and from loved ones, scans of old newspaper articles and yearbook articles, and even original artwork illustrate each veteran’s life.
And Jasek did it all as a labor of love. His interest began one day when he stopped to read one of the plaques and wondered what that man’s story was. He found some information in the Texas Collection, and more from public government archives. But it took tracking down family members and old friends, one by one, to really rebuild each story. So that was what Jasek did, spending a decade and a half pulling together the information that would become this book.
Jasek, by day a preservation specialist for Baylor Libraries, got help from several Baylor friends. Of note, graphic design professor Virginia Green helped with layout and design, and Dr. Michael Parrish, BA ’74, MA ’76, a history professor, helped write a few sections. Legendary BU football coach Grant Teaff agreed to write the foreward, and a few benefactors stepped forward to help with the cost of getting it printed.
“I would like people to know who these people were by reading the book and knowing their story, and not to forget what they did,” says Jasek. “They didn’t have a chance to come back and own a business or be presidents – they didn’t have a chance. Their lives were taken from them. But they knew the risks. And so they stood in line, and – the Sioux Indians have a saying, “Brave hearts to the front.” They were the brave hearts, and they just were killed in the war. I think that’s what I want people to know, to understand the sacrifice.”
For more information on the book or to place an order, visit soldierswoodencross.info.
Sic ’em, Frank and Baylor veterans!