In Room 146 of the Nichols Center a mural is painted on the wall with a black background, with a plane and the Air Force logo in the center. The mural includes the POW flag and “DET 005 Auburn University” at the bottom. At the top, the names of mural’s creators are written — Will Davison, Brandon Baughman and Dee Imlay.
Cadets John Jo, sophomore in aviation management, and Julia Pedersoli, senior in nursing, restored the mural as one of their projects in honor of Capt. Francis “Dee” Imlay. Imlay was an Auburn alum who was part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program in which he was named the distinguished graduate. Imlay and his friends originally painted the wall during their time in the ROTC program in 2002.
Jo and Pedersoli initially had the shadowbox before realizing Imlay’s name was written on the mural in Room 146. They decided to put the shadowbox beside the mural to bring more attention to Imlay and his legacy. Imlay died in a plane crash in Afghanistan on March 28, 2012.
Friends and family were invited, both on Zoom and in person, to see the restored mural and added shadowbox at an event held on Friday, Oct. 23. Cadet Jo spoke about Capt. Imlay’s accomplishments and the legacy he left behind.
“During his time in the Air Force, Capt. Imlay was able to fly T-37, T-38, T-6 and F-15E,” Jo said. “Acquiring more than 2,500 hours, Capt. Imlay was able to pass down his lifelong skills to younger pilots as a T-6 and T-37 instructor at Shepherd Air Force base in Texas.”
Jo also mentioned the various awards and decorations Imlay received. These include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Unit Award, the National Defense Service Medal, the Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon and the Air Force Training Ribbon. In 2008, Imlay was named the 80th Operations Support Squadron Instructor of the Year.
Cadet Pedersoli said Imlay had a lasting impact on the Air Force and the ROTC program. The mural will be a reminder of Imlay and his impact to everyone who sees it.
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“We hope that every cadet that steps in this room will take a moment to reflect on Capt. Imlay’s dedication to his country, his care for others and his ultimate sacrifice,” Pedersoli said.
Guests were encouraged to share stories and memories of Imlay and what he meant to them. Many of the guests shared memories of their time with Imlay and were happy to see the mural restored in his honor.
“He was a great son-in-law, a great father, a wonderful dad,” said Lt. Col. Roger Baxter, Imlay’s father-in-law. “Just to see him play with the kids was a lot of fun, and we miss him every day.”
Baxter also said he remembered when Imlay asked Baxter, in a Burger King, if he could marry Baxter’s daughter Tami. Tami Imlay was in attendance by Zoom with Imlay’s two children, Isaac and Lyndis.
Many of the guests, including Becky Baughman, professor in Auburn University’s Department of Aviation, were appreciative of the cadets giving Imlay the recognition and restoring the mural for others to honor him.
“You could just walk right past it, and you guys brought it alive,” Baughman said. “And to talk about it and to let us talk about him, it is really a gift. He’s our friend and father and husband and son and all these. You could’ve just let it be a name on a wall, but you didn’t.”
The event made an impact on the family and friends of Imlay and the cadets as well. Both cadets Jo and Pedersoli were grateful for the appreciation, but they said being able to do something for Capt. Imlay and his family had the biggest impact on them.
“It feels great to be appreciated, but it’s something that deserved to be there,” Jo said.
Imlay’s shadowbox and mural will remain in Room 146 for new and old cadets to remember Capt. Imlay and his legacy.
“He’s more than a folded flag. He’s our friend; he was a cadet here,” Baughman said. “He went through all the things these guys are going through, and so the legacy and the tradition continues on.”
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