More than 81,000 American soldiers remain missing in action, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Agency.
To honor these soldiers, the University dedicated the POW/MIA Chair of Honor in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 2, during the Tigers’ game against Ole Miss — which was also Military Appreciation Day at the University.
Kyle Venable, veteran programs coordinator for the Veterans Resource Center, said the chair will serve as a reminder for all of the sacrifices that have been made in protecting our country.
“The significance [of the chair] is to always remember those that raised their right hands, went off to a foreign land to defend our country from harm, and were either captured and held prisoner or never returned home,” he said.
The chair will remain empty during home games and will be guarded on each side by members of the University’s ROTC program, Venable said.
“Auburn’s heritage and deep history of honoring and respecting our military women and men will now be evident to all who visit Jordan-Hare Stadium,” he said.
Further underscoring the importance of the chair, Venable recounted the story of Auburn’s only known graduate who is MIA.
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Max Morris graduated from Auburn University, then Alabama Polytechnic Institute, in 1942.
While there, he was an honor military student and a varsity football player — he received the Carnegie Medal for Heroism after he suffered severe burns attempting to rescue a fellow cadet during an ROTC summer training camp in 1941.
After graduation, he served eight years of military duty. For his service in World War II, he was promoted to the rank of major and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Army of Commendation Ribbon.
Morris has been missing in action since 1950 during the Korean War.
“We hope to raise awareness of the indomitable spirit that he possessed,” Venable said.
The Auburn Student Veterans Association, or ASVA, spearheaded the effort to get the Chair of Honor in the stadium, Venable said.
“The ASVA represents all veterans on campus,” he said. “We felt that because of the Auburn Family’s deep military history and respect for the sacrifices made by those who have served that this was the next step in progressing as a military-friendly university.”
Venable served as president of the ASVA from 2017 – 2019. When he became the program’s coordinator, installing the chair became a top priority, he said.
“I reached out to the Student Government Association through our ASVA-SGA liaison,” Venable said. “The ASVA-SGA team began working with a vendor to get the chair ordered and funded.”
The Chair of Honor will have a lasting impact at the University, ensuring that the stories of people like Morris are never forgotten, Venable said.
“[The chair] will be a constant reminder to all of us that our fight for freedom did not come without sacrifice and that freedom is truly not free,” he said.
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