MG VT Pylon 111419

Members of the Gregory Guard, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets precision drill team, performed a rifle salute Friday followed by Taps during a ceremony adding the names of six alumni to the War Memorial Pylons.

BLACKSBURG — Peter Kraines was a loyal friend.

Before he entered Virginia Tech, Kraines saw four close friends turn against him the senior year of high school, his father said.

“Their rejection caused Peter tremendous pain,” said Richard Kraines, “but Peter did not abandon them.”

Eventually life moved on. Kraines graduated from Tech in 2010 and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Last month, he died at the age of 33 after a training exercise in Idaho.

At his memorial service, all four of those high school friends showed up. One after the other recalled Kraines as their best friend, his father said, and “they suddenly realized everybody thought Peter was their best friend.”

Virginia Tech added Kraines — and five other alumni who died during the Vietnam War era — to its War Memorial Pylons on Friday under a clear sky.

“They represent a commitment to service that we will never forget,” Charlie Phleger, Tech’s associate vice president for advancement, told the assembled crowd.

The Pylons at Virginia Tech list the names of students and alumni who have died while serving in the military since World War I. The memorial at Tech’s Drillfield was constructed in the 1950s and is overseen by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the student military group that has been integral to the university since its founding.

On Friday, friends and family members gathered at the memorial to pay homage to their loved ones and to unveil their names etched into the limestone pillars.

In the spring, the university put out a public call for the identities of anyone whose name was missing from the memorial.

That brought forth the names of Kraines and the five who died in the Vietnam War era and whose eligibility until now had been overlooked: Sgt. William Hawkins, Maj. Norman Hurst, Spc. Fletcher Lewis, Lt. j.g. William Sloop and 2nd Lt. Jerry Smith.

Hurst, Smith and Sloop died during training exercises. Hurst graduated Tech in 1952 and was killed in 1969 when his aircraft caught fire in Arizona. Smith, a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, died in 1974 when his fighter jet crashed to the ground, also in Arizona.

Sloop was in the Corps of Cadets and earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1966.

His widow, Toni Sloop Staplin, recalled on Friday how the two lived in a trailer park set aside for married students. They wed his senior year and survived that summer off the vegetables they grew in patches around the trailer park.

“It was the Sixties,” Staplin said to knowing laughter.

In 1969, Sloop died when his Navy plane crashed in Florida.

Lewis and Hawkins were both killed in Vietnam.

Lewis, who studied physics and chemistry at Tech, was fatally shot in Gia Dinh in 1968.

Hawkins served as an Army medic and was killed in a rescue-and-recovery mission when his helicopter was hit by a grenade in Thua Thien Province in 1970.

Adding names to the Pylons is a lengthy process, and includes verification of a person’s enrollment at Tech and military records showing the person died in the line of duty.

The Pylons now list the names of 438 students and alumni.

In a ceremony last year, the university unveiled the name of Sarah Mitchell, a 2017 graduate who was killed in a 2018 boat crash in the Red Sea. The U.S. Navy ensign was the first woman added to the memorial. The Corps of Cadets first accepted women in 1973.

After earning a marketing degree at Tech in 2010, Kraines enlisted in the Air Force. The technical sergeant had been serving as a special tactics pararescueman when he was killed Oct. 8 in a mountain rescue exercise in Boise.

Kraines had been a free fall jumper, a combat scuba diver and was certified as an emergency medical technician, according to the Air Force.

“Peter was decidedly not self-promoting,” his father said Friday. “So he would feel really awkward being put in this company, on these Pylons.”

Before the traditional three-volley salute and the playing of Taps, loved ones of each serviceman walked to a Pylon to see the name unveiled.

At the Ut Prosim Pylon, Kraines’s widow, Emily Kraines, bent down slightly, a young child in her arms. She peeled off the white tape with a black-gloved hand as family looked on.

They were surrounded by friends.

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