This year I was honored to speak at Stanford’s Memorial Day military appreciation barbecue. There are now 51 enrolled Stanford students who are veterans. I was once a Stanford student veteran. In 1969 I temporarily left Stanford’s Ph.D. program in economics for a tour in the Navy. That year the Stanford Faculty Senate voted to remove ROTC from campus, and this year, I was pleased to remind everyone at the barbecue, the Faculty Senate reversed that decision.
But I mainly spoke about a Stanford student, Ryan McGlothlin, who did not return to complete his Ph.D. and whose memory inspires us on Memorial Day. In 2004 Ryan left the Stanford Ph.D. program in chemistry to join the Marines. In November 2005 he was killed in Iraq. He is now honored in Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium, built 74 years ago to honor alumni who lost their lives in World War I and later expanded for World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ryan was serving in Anbar province, close to the Syrian border, where Al-Qaida terrorists were streaming through. He was a rifle platoon commander, part of Operation Steel Curtain, with the mission to clear terrorists out of the town of Ubaydi and to protect the Iraqi people. Ryan was posthumously honored with a Silver Star for his heroic acts, and I can do no better than read from the award citation. “Second Lieutenant McGlothlin’s platoon was engaged by 21 enemy personnel. The enemy delivered frontal and flanking automatic fire from four well-fortified, mutually supporting positions.… With complete disregard for his own safety, Second Lieutenant McGlothlin maneuvered through the insurgents’ strongpoint and immediately engaged the insurgents to secure and recover his embattled Marines…. While his last Marine was being evacuated from the building, Second Lieutenant McGlothlin shielded the recovery effort from grenade blasts and commenced a fierce exchange of small arms fire with the enemy until he was mortally wounded…. By his bold leadership, selfless act of bravery, and complete dedication to duty, Second Lieutenant McGlothlin reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”