KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Among the names appearing on a new veterans memorial on the campus of the University of Tennessee is John R. Ruggles III.
“He was a happy-go-lucky, spirited guy. Good baseball player. Fun to be around,” said Caesar Stair, a fellow Marine veteran, about the friend he knew as “Jack."
They attended Bearden Elementary School. Ruggles was killed in Vietnam at 23 years old as he rushed to help a fellow Marine injured by a blast on the battlefield.
“You think about all the things that he missed out on ... we lost a lot,” said Stair, sitting next to the baseball field at Lakeshore Park named after his childhood friend who attended law school at the University of Tennessee before leaving to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. "Always remember these individuals who paid the ultimate price."
Jack Ruggles III is among the more than 350 names appearing on a new campus memorial that will be dedicated in September of 2022. The memorial was an idea first hatched by veterans of World War I.
“It’s 100 years in the making and we need one,” said Logan Hickman, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who spearheaded the private fundraising effort for a new public veteran memorial on campus.
“I do believe there are more Korean War names out there that we need to find. And that's where we can do some help from the public,” said Cynthia Tinker at the University of Tennessee Center for the Study of War and Society.
As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Tinker has spent hundreds of hours tracking down the names that should appear on that new memorial. The names range from WWI to the present.
“I mean, I think maybe that’s what I’m here for,” said Tinker about her devotion to the research and a new website that will have the backstory to the names that appear on the memorial.
Tinker has thus far identified 363 names for the memorial. If you have a tip on a name that should appear on that tribute to fallen service members you can reach her through email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials also released a statement about which names are eligible to appear on the memorial. The statement is below.
The University of Tennessee Armed Force Memorial enshrines the names of UT students, faculty and staff who died in the line of duty while in military service to the United States from World War One to the present, whether involved in direct combat, military operations or training, or as the result of domestic or international acts of terror.