Maj. Alan Mateja Gym Dedication
22 Sep 18
The Billy Sparks Pack participated in the dedication of the UofL ROTC gym in the memory of Maj. Alan Mateja on 22 Sep 18. The gym is located on UofL’s campus in Dougherty Hall, home to both the Army and Air Force ROTC units.
AF ROTC Det. 295 PAS, Lt. Col. Pete Day welcomed attendees, including members of the Mateja family, the past Det. 295 PAS, UofL President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, Heather French Henry and approximately 60 guests.
Dr. Bendapudi spoke briefly about how the dedication affected her personally. Then former Det. 295 PAS, Lt. Col. Jerry Crigger gave the background story regarding the project, including the various obstacles encountered along the path. His emotional connection to Alan was obvious, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd while he was speaking. Sierra Hotel, Jerry.
Lt. Col. Day then presented the plaque which will be placed in the display case in Dougherty Hall’s main hallway.
Billy Sparks Pack member Will Ashlock, representing the River Rats, presented a Flag of Valor. The flag will be hung on the wall next to the new display case above the reading bench. Will, who is personal friends with the Mateja family, gave a heartfelt presentation, which once again brought the crowd to tears. Two of Alan’s grandsons then unveiled the Flag of Honor.
Heather French Henry spoke next of her year as Miss America (2000), during which time she honored Alan's memory by wearing his POW-MIA bracelet as part of her platform of recognizing and assisting veterans. At the end of her year, she placed the bracelet at the foot of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. She also spoke of her ongoing support of veterans and of the honor of being named the Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs in 2014.
Finally, Alan’s wife, Carolyn gave a moving memoir of Alan, and shared how much this means to her and the entire family. Alan’s two sons concluded with a few words.
Click on the photos below to enlarge and to see captions.