beneath the stones
by Roy Freedman
Adjunct Professor of English
Have you ever noticed the many memorial stones scattered about
The Citadel campus? I have and have felt compelled to respectfully
read their terse, poignant dedications to fallen cadets. The
stories of these fine young men form a significant part of
what goes into making The Citadel’s history so cherished
and so honorable. Their lives should not go unread like so
many dusty, forgotten tomes on the back shelves of libraries.
By composing a series of articles combining archival materials,
old photographs, remembrances by fellow cadets, friends and
family, faculty and staff, I am attempting in some small way
to pay tribute to these boys and men by keeping alive the
meaning of their lives and deaths. The following is the first
article in the series.
This moving quote from the U.S. Air Force hymn bedecks a memorial
stone dedicated to Capt. Steven Michael Wildman, Class of 1970,
Hotel Company. After careful deliberation, Wildman’s widow,
along with Steve Josias, his classmate, friend and next door neighbor
in Padgett-Thomas Barracks, chose these words as the most fitting
tribute to a cadet whose lifelong passion was flying, who bravely
flew for his country in Vietnam and who gave his life training new
pilots. The tree that shades his stone is a holly brought specially
from Colorado because that was the place Wildman loved the most.
The memorial stone itself was generously purchased by a Citadel
classmate who chooses to remain anonymous.
Class of 1970
Classmates Steve Josias, Bubba Kennedy and Mike Rogers all fondly
remember Wildman as a young man who enjoyed life to the fullest,
who loved to play practical jokes but who was always intensely serious
about becoming a pilot just like his father.
“He was loquacious, energetic, enthusiastic, a picture perfect
cadet who could be on the cover of a Citadel publication,”
Rogers, whose dad was also a career officer in the Air Force, remembers
spending hours with Wildman watching planes pass overhead and mapping
out future plans. After graduation, Wildman achieved his overriding
dream of flying military jets and in Vietnam won numerous combat
decorations including the Distinguished Flying Cross, what Rogers
calls “a most highly respected medal.”
“Only the very best pilots, such as Steve Wildman, were selected
[by the Air Force] to be flight trainers,” Rogers said.
While at The Citadel Wildman was a member of the Summerall Guards,
the English Club, the Arnold Air Society and the Gymnastics Club.
He made the Dean’s List and was a second lieutenant.
His stone and shade tree are located on a grassy area between the
Daniel Library and Summerall Chapel.
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