University of Illinois Military Heritage

A Tradition of Citizen Service

The University of Illinois has a long and proud history of education, leadership and service. Under the Land-Grant College Act of 1862, each institution was directed to offer instruction in military tactics. From the start, military training has been an important part of the University’s curriculum. All too often world events have interrupted college studies, careers and personal lives by the call to service in our nation’s Armed Forces. Illini have regularly and faithfully answered that call. More than 9,000 served in World War I and more than 20,000 served in World War II alone.

A Legacy of Sacrifice

Along with the University’s tradition of leadership and service comes a legacy of personal sacrifice. Of the tens of thousands of alumni, students, faculty and staff who answered their nation’s calls, 1,121 never returned. The Veterans’ Memorial at Memorial Stadium honors all who served, but especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we may live and learn in freedom.

Gold Star Veterans

Prominently displayed in windows of homes, stores, offices and factories during World Wars I and II were service banners with a blue star for each son, daughter or employee serving in uniform in the U. S. Armed Forces. The University of Illinois was no exception, as this photo taken in the Illini Union attests. Gold stars were sewn on the banners to represent those who died in the war.