The Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets and WWII Aggie soldiers who liberated Nazi concentration camps were awarded with the 2018 Guardian of the Human Spirit Award by Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) during a luncheon this month at Hilton Americas in Houston.
Commandant of the Corps of Cadets Brig. Gen. Joe. E. Ramirez, Jr., Texas A&M Class of 1979, accepted the award on behalf of the university.
“Those men who were part of that effort to liberate concentration camps stood up at a time when our country needed them – our world needed them – and did what needed to be done to save our world from tyranny,” Ramirez said.
During the Second World War, a total of 20,229 Aggies served, 14,123 served as officers and 953 died in service.
Seven Aggies earned Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest award that a member of the U.S. Armed Forces can receive for valor against an enemy force.
“Aggies fought valiantly alongside fellow soldiers to rid the world of unprecedented evil,” Texas A&M President Michael K. Young said. “Those who liberated the camps bore witness to unspeakable atrocities with bravery and compassion. In accepting this award, we honor those Aggies and all who fought to defend humanity, the innocent victims they rescued and the six million Jews who perished.”
Leadership, service and integrity are shared values between HMH and the Corps of Cadets, museum officials noted, adding both entities recognize an individual’s responsibility for the collective actions of society.
“The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets have inspired tomorrow’s leaders to serve our state and our nation since 1876,” HMH officials stated. “This combined human impact exemplifies what it means to be a Guardian of the Human Spirit.”
Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Doug Mendelsohn, a senior in the Corps, said the award holds personal significance to him.
“As a Jewish Cadet and a future Army Officer, I am very proud to be part of a Corps and university worthy of this honor,” he said. “It means a lot to me and the other members of my community that the Aggie liberators did what they had to do, even if many of them had never met a Jewish person before.”
The Guardian of the Human Spirit award was established in 1997 with the purpose of acknowledging institutions and leaders who have worked enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.
The ceremony had nearly 1,000 attendees including 70 members of the Corps of Cadets who provided a military-style procession and escorted Holocaust survivors to their seats. Members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and Texas A&M’s Century Singers performed for the crowd before the luncheon began.
Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense (2006-2011), former president of Texas A&M and interim dean of Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, was the event’s keynote speaker. Gates took part in a conversation-style interview moderated by Porter S. Garner III ’79, president and CEO of the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M.
The museum’s 2018 Honorary Chairs were Neil Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush and chairman of Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service; John Sharp, Texas A&M Class of 1972, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System; and The Honorable Sylvester Turner, mayor of the City of Houston.
HMH reported that this year’s event raised $652,500 to fund general operations and educational and outreach programs that promote awareness of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and apathy against the backdrop of the Holocaust.
Media contact: Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University, email@example.com.