The Supreme Sacrifice
Book celebrates Baylor alumni who served in U.S. wars
By Eleanor Hunt
Library Information Specialist Frank Jasek, BBA ’73, didn’t set out to commemorate Baylor veteran alumni who died fighting for causes they held dear. He was simply curious about the 240 plaques and memorial lampposts throughout the campus. The lampposts mark Baylor’s student military connections from the Civil War to Iraq War.
Jasek chronicled all of them in his self-published hardback, Soldiers of the Wooden Cross: Military Memorials of Baylor University. The veteran memorials are significant in that “Baylor is the only U.S. campus with individual plaques for individual U.S. servicemen and women,” Jasek said.
Before he thought about creating a book, Jasek would stop to read the plaques, wondering about the soldiers’ personal lives, hopes and ambitions. One day in 2011, he decided to find out about one of them. That spurred his five-year quest to collect information on each veteran.
“I got the person’s next-of-kin from the U.S. government’s Individual Deceased Personnel Files and called their relatives,” Jasek said. “I collected whatever information the family could provide.”
The quest to know about them kept Jasek going.
“I felt a deep connection with the soldier or nurse who died,” Jasek said. “I could look into that plaque, see their faces and what happened. It was like looking into a time portal.”
‘A glorious decoration’
Jasek’s fascination with U.S. military history goes back to his childhood when he attended the Heart of Texas Fair every year. Once in the fair, he never left the military vehicles and soldiers area. To him, it was the most intriguing part.
Learning about Baylor’s war heroes was just as intriguing. “It was just the grace of God that led me to create a book,” he said.
In Soldiers of the Wooden Cross, published in 2016, Jasek relates a wealth of U.S. war and historical background, along with vignettes of alumni lives, families and heroism in battle. Numerous individuals assisted in locating descendants of the veterans and providing research, including people from city libraries, museums, historical societies and reunion groups.
Money was donated for the $20,000 publishing cost by Wardlaw Claim Service, Central National Bank, Englander Container Company, several Catholic priests and Waco business people. Former Baylor head football coach Grant Teaff wrote the book’s foreword. Virginia Green, associate professor-Baylor Art, designed the cover and book. Susan Mullally, former associate professor-Baylor Art, photographed the plaques. Along with Jasek’s illustrations, the book contains many photos, lithographs and newspaper articles.
He named his book after an address delivered by Charles Henry Brent at memorial services held Jan. 5, 1919, with World War I infantry regiments.
“I thought these lines of his address were touching: ‘The Wooden Cross for dead comrades is for them a glorious decoration.’ As Christ on the wooden cross was a thing of death, it was also one of glory,” Jasek said.
SOLDERS OF THE WOODEN CROSS SCHOLARSHIP FUND
All book proceeds go to the Soldiers of the Wooden Cross Scholarship Fund administration by the Waco Foundation. Thus far has granted five scholarships. To make a donation, visit wacofoundation.org.