Honoring Our Heroes on Memorial Day

The San Marcos Academy family joins others across the country today in observing the Memorial Day holiday, which honors those men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The garrison flag is flown at Ingram Stadium for special occasions at the Academy.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was officially proclaimed back on May 5, 1868, to honor those soldiers who died during the Civil War. The purpose of Decoration Day was to place flowers or other decorations on the graves of those who gave their lives in defense of the country. On that first Decoration Day, General James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 volunteers decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Many Americans wear a red poppy on Memorial Day in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In December of 2000, a resolution was passed establishing the National Moment of Remembrance, where citizens are asked to voluntarily and informally observe a moment of remembrance and respect at 3 p.m. local time.

Several San Marcos Academy graduates have given their lives in service to our nation, and the names of these heroes are listed on our Wall of Honor, where we also provide a list of other alumni who have previously served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. As we remember and thank all of these men and women, we would like to provide a brief profile of a few of them.

Memorial Day Hero: CPT Paul W. Peña

CPT Peña, a 2000 graduate of San Marcos Academy and 2004 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was killed in action in Afghanistan in January of 2010. Peña was laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio in a moving ceremony with full military honors.

The large oak tree in the parking lot at the Academy was dedicated in memory of CPT Peña in May 2010, and the SMA Alumni Council established at that time the Captain Paul W. Peña Outstanding Alumni Award. This award is now given annually to an alumnus who exemplifies excellence and has lived a life that brings credit and honor to the school. CPT Peña was selected as the first (posthumous) recipient of the award. In addition, a Memorial Scholarship was established and named for CPT Peña. This scholarship is awarded annually to a deserving Academy student.

Memorial Day Hero: Benjamin STEPHEN Fordham

Steve Fordham was a 1962 graduate of SMA, where he was captain of the football team as well as senior class president and a member of the basketball and track teams.

From SMA, Fordham went on to attend Wharton Junior College and then Baylor University, where he graduated in 1966. He enlisted in the Marines and was sent to OCS. As a Second Lieutenant, he was deployed to Vietnam in October of 1967 and immediately ordered into action.

Fordham was wounded in November and received the Purple Heart, pinned on by President Lyndon Johnson himself. Fordham was returned to the front, endured the siege of Khe Sanh, and was married during a brief “R and R” in Hawaii. Then, sadly, he was killed in action on April 15, 1968.

Steve Fordham receives his Purple Heart from President Lyndon B. Johnson

In the year of his death, members of Fordham’s family established the Steve Fordham Award, which is given annually to the most valuable player on the football team at SMA. The Fordham trophy sits in the display case in Carroll Hall.

Memorial Day Hero: Danny Little

Danny entered SMA in 1961 as a sophomore and graduated in 1964. In his senior year, he was promoted to Captain of B Company in the First Battalion. He also played on the football team, ran track, and sang in the Cadet Choir.

In September of 1964, Danny enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Special Forces Airborne-Infantry Operations and Intelligence. He served his first tour of duty in Vietnam from May 24, 1967 to May 23, 1968 and earned a Bronze Star.

Staff Sergeant E6 Little returned for a second tour of duty in May of 1969. Just nine days before he was to return to the United States, in April of 1970, Little’s family was notified that he was missing in action. He was declared KIA three months later; his remains have never been located.

In 1994, Danny’s classmates dedicated a native live oak tree in his honor near the Senior Gate. His parents, Alice and Willis Little of Abilene, attended the dedication. Little’s medals and some other remembrances are on display in the Carroll Alumni Room.

Memorial Day Hero: Joseph H. Fankhauser

SSGT Joseph Henry Fankhauser attended the Academy during his middle school years while he and his mother lived in San Marcos. Following his graduation from Mason High School, near the Panhandle, Frankhauser entered the Marines. He would serve in Okinawa, Japan, and in Washington, D.C. He completed four tours of duty in Iraq and was serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed in action on April 22, 2012.

During his 12-year military career, Fankhauser earned numerous awards, including two Purple Hearts. On the first anniversary of his death, a tree was dedicated on the Academy campus in his memory. A memorial scholarship was also established at the Academy by Joe’s mother, Mary Wyscarver.

Memorial Day Hero: Harvey H. Storms

A member of the Class of 1934, Harvey Storms was the son of two former Academy students, Harvey Storms, Sr., and Estelle Storms.

After his graduation from SMA, Storms attended Southwest Texas State University and then Texas A&M, where he completed his ROTC training and graduated in 1939. He came back to SMA at that time, teaching there for two years. He was then the first faculty member to report for active duty following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Memorabilia honoring Major Harvey H. Storms in the Carroll Hall Display Case.

Major Storms returned home safely from World War II but would later find himself on duty during the Korean Conflict, beginning in 1947.

As part of a unit under Gen. McArthur’s leadership, Major Storms was assisting with an organized withdrawal to the 38th Parallel in Korea. During this withdrawal, Storms took a bullet. Though injured, he continued to fight off the enemy’s advance, and was reported missing in action in 1950.

San Marcos Academy President Raymond Cavness delivered the eulogy for Major Storms, saying, “We here today cannot estimate with accuracy how many men in that action owe their lives to the valor of Major Harvey H. Storms. No mortal did more to better deserve his endless sojourn in heavenly rest.”

Harvey Storms was memorialized at SMA in 1970, when the Ex-Student Association voted to name their new Foundation the Harvey H. Storms Foundation.

In 2018, Major Storms’ remains were finally recovered in Korea and repatriated to the United States. The Academy celebrated his return home during Homecoming 2019, when the family was presented with a flag flown over the campus. Major Storms will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on June 12, 2020.  

Honor Those Who Served on Memorial Day

As you enjoy this Memorial Day weekend, be ever mindful of those who gave their lives in defense of our great nation. Please join others across the country at 3 p.m. on Monday, May 25, in the National Moment of Remembrance as we honor all our Memorial Day heroes.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

(From “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Michael, November 1918)

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