The gray-haired man sitting near the back of the crowded room Thursday morning could relate to the plaque sitting near the podium in the Champions Club at Koch Arena.
The Veterans Field plaque, honoring the thousands of Sedgwick County residents who had served in World War II, had been stashed in a storeroom for years — ignored, if not forgotten.
When Glenn Fisher returned from battle, nobody talked to him about what it was like. Not that he minded much.
"My unit had a 90 percent casualty rate," he said. "You want to forget."
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As the years passed, however, what he and his country went through in World War II began to mean more to him. He took his family to Europe and showed them where he fought — including where he lost his left pinkie and ring finger to German machine gun fire as he crawled toward the Seigfried Line.
"I held my hand up like this" to protect himself, Fisher said. "I guess they were aiming for my head — and got my hand instead."
He wrote a book about his experiences. A few years ago, something unexpected began to happen, he said. People began to care again.
"I have a lot of people asking me to hear the story of what I went through — what the country went through," Fisher said.
The Veterans Field plaque is a symbol of those sacrifices, Wichita State University officials said at Thursday's ceremony. More than 17,000 people in the Wichita area served in World War II, and they came home to build their lives — and to expand the municipal university.
Veterans Field was a reflection of that, built in pieces as money allowed and dedicated on Nov. 25, 1948.
"I think it's critically important for us to honor our past, recognize our past, and build on it," WSU president Donald Beggs said.
WSU athletic director Eric Sexton said the plaque and the field have a special place in his family's history. His father, Linwood, was a star football player for the Shockers — but he also helped build the stadium one summer while he was a student at the university.
The plaque will be mounted on the west side of Cessna Stadium near the elevator for the press box, university officials said.
The ceremony, which was moved indoors because of the cold, windy, damp weather, paid special homage to World War II veterans.
But veterans from all the wars America has been involved in since then — from Korea to Afghanistan — were saluted..
Also acknowledged was a contingent of veterans from the South Vietnamese army, who came dressed in uniform.
A moment of silence was observed at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month — the moment when the armistice ending World War I went into effect in 1918.
When he heard about the university's Veterans Day observance, Gov.-elect Sam Brownback asked to take part.
He loves veterans, Brownback told the crowd.
"I love that they stood up for the country, and put their lives on the line," he said.
Brownback called America "a special country."
"When things go wrong in places, they don't say, 'Let's call the U.N.,' " he said. "If it's a tough job, they call the Americans. 'They'll get things straightened out here.' "
"If it's not us, it doesn't get done."