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K-State Today

March 15, 2018

Pershing Rifles and ROTC cadets conduct 24-hour silent guard

Submitted by Jed Dunham

Kansas State University's precision military drill team, Company G-7 of the National Society of the Pershing Rifles, and cadets from the K-State ROTC programs, are conducting a 24-hour silent guard tribute in front of the Wildcat statue at World War I Memorial Stadium March 15 in honor of World War I casualty and 1916 K-State graduate MacArthur Brush. Brush died 100 years ago today while serving in the U.S. Army at Camp Funston, the massive wartime training center located within present-day Fort Riley.

"It's important for us to remember those who have come before and to ensure their memory and their sacrifice is not forgotten," National Commander of the Pershing Rifles and K-State student Max Curtis explained. "The 24-hour silent guard is our way of preserving their memory."

A member of the 48 Fallen

Brush is a member of the 48 Fallen, one of the 48 former students, faculty and alumni who died while serving in the armed forces during World War I, and for whom World War I Memorial Stadium is dedicated. After listening to a presentation about the 48 Fallen, the K-State Pershing Rifles were inspired to honor them. 

"This is our history, K-State's history," Curtis said, "and with the war having occurred a century ago we felt it would be a great way to show our commitment to those who died by conducting 24-hour silent guards on the centennial of their deaths."

The first tribute took place last August for the first K-State casualty, Sgt. Delano Bates, and the Pershing Rifles are committed to honoring each of the 48 Fallen.

"When classes are in session we will perform the 24-hour silent guard but during semester breaks a wreath will be laid by the World War I Memorial Stadium signs," Curtis said. 

World War I in Kansas

Brush was a student at the Kansas State Agricultural College who graduated in 1916 with a degree in animal husbandry. After graduation, he became a teacher in Stockton, Kansas, but when the United States entered World War I, he worked with the YMCA to help construct the enormous training center near Fort Riley known as Camp Funston. Forty-five thousand American soldiers would pass through the camp's gates on their way to the war in Europe during its brief existence.

"We often view the names on the walls of our memorials and quickly pass by without taking time to think about who they were in life," said Jack Curtis, member of the Pershing Rifles and brother of Max Curtis. "When we heard the story of who this person was, and who the other members of the 48 Fallen were, we were moved to do something significant in their honor."

After a failed attempt to join the Navy, Brush found himself in the medical corps of the U.S. Army and was stationed at Camp Funston when the influenza virus arrived from southwest Kansas in early March 1918. Assigned to the medical ward of Camp Funston, he was there the night the first influenza patient arrived, a young cook who reported to sick call on the evening of March 4, 1918. Brush was on duty that night, and he wrote a letter to his younger sister describing the fatigue he felt and how was going to retire early once he'd "put the babies to sleep" after his last round on the ward. 

It was his final letter. Brush died in the base hospital at Fort Riley on March 15, 1918. He was one of the very first to perish from an illness that would eventually claim more victims than World War I.

A commitment to honor

"When you see the plaques on the towers of World War I Memorial Stadium you can sense the enormity of the loss our school endured a century ago," Max Curtis said. "But it's difficult to understand the impact each death had. With this 24-hour silent guard we want to ensure those who have gone before are not forgotten and to show our K-State family we have a connection which extends well beyond our own experiences as students to include a true sense of family which goes back to our beginnings." 

The 24-hour silent guard in honor of Brush began a minute after midnight March 15 and will continue until midnight March 16. Students, faculty, staff and visitors to the Manhattan campus are encouraged to visit World War I Memorial Stadium to share in the tribute. 

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