They came in sorrow. They came in gratitude. They came with cherished memories of the days their sons spent at William & Mary, of capturing intramural football championships, snapping the rope that rings the Wren bell, of gaining membership in Phi Beta Kappa, of values learned and put to use in their daily lives.
They watched and listened as a gentle breeze rustled the black cloth covering the sixth – and newest – plaque adorning the central hall of the Wren Building, the one that, unveiled Saturday, contained the names of Ryan McGlothlin ’01 and Todd Weaver ’08, each killed in battle during service to their country. Their families and friends, President Taylor Reveley and about 50 ROTC cadets were in attendance.
McGlothlin, a Marine, was killed in 2005 in Iraq. Weaver, an Army soldier, died in Afghanistan in 2008. They joined the 215 students and eight professors whose names have been etched on the five previous plaques, martyred in the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“They did not have to fight; they could have chosen a different path,” Reveley said. “Both men had powerful intellects and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from William & Mary. Both were natural leaders, young men of enormous accomplishment and even greater promise. Both were stirred to action by the attack on the United States on Sept. 11.”
John McGlennon of the government department, representing the faculty, told those gathered, “how we all wish that there was no reason to be here today. For the McGlothlin family and the Weaver family, how much happier would they be to have Ryan and Todd with them. For the faculty who challenged and encouraged them, who saw so much actual and potential accomplishment, how much more satisfying it would be to have these two soldier-scholars still learning and pushing the boundary of knowledge.”
When Lt. Col. Jim Kimbrough, who leads W&M’s ROTC program, finished the stories of how McGlothlin ’01 and Weaver ’08 sacrificed their lives to save those of their fellow soldiers, there was a moment of silence during which the Wren Bell tolled twice.
When it came time for the families to speak, they reflected not only on their sons but on what their ongoing relationship with William & Mary meant to them.
“Even though grieving is sometimes very personal, it’s so much easier when you have company who grieve with us and share memories of our sons,” Don McGlothlin ’70 said. “So we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being here and for sharing this grief with us. Even though our grief is brought back to the fore, it’s a happy, happy day to have your sons remembered by such an institution as William & Mary.”
Ruth (Johnson) McGlothlin ’69 told the audience, which included about 50 members of the William & Mary ROTC corps, that her son was probably prouder of his intramural football team’s championship than of making Phi Beta Kappa.
“At least he talked about it more,” she said.
Donn Weaver, Todd’s father, recalled visiting William & Mary while he and his bride Jeanne were just starting their honeymoon.
“When we really saw the campus we said ‘Maybe – just maybe – our children could get in here! What a neat place,’” he said. “Part of that neatness and that feeling came when we walked through the Wren Hall and saw those plaques.”
Five members of the Weaver “tribe,” as he called them, have William & Mary degrees.
“Todd took his understanding of service, leadership and honor and honed them on this campus,” Donn Weaver said. “And then took them, as did Ryan, into combat ... When he died, William & Mary rallied behind him and us, just as they have with the sons and daughters – and their families – of all those on the list on which Ryan and Todd are now added.”
“A soldier only dies if they are forgotten,” Weaver concluded, quoting a line from a World War I-era poem. “Todd and Ryan will not be forgotten. Thank you, William & Mary and all who guide you.”