WSU Tri‑Cities unveils expanded Veterans Memorial, Mattis Leadership Library

Retired Gen. James Mattis, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, speaks to the significance of the WSU Tri-Cities “Stories” Veterans Memorial during an unveiling and dedication event at WSU Tri-Cities.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University unveiled an expanded “Stories” Veterans Memorial and dedication of the new General James Mattis Leadership Library, now located in the campus Veterans Center, as part of a special tribute this month. The event welcomed an assortment of distinguished guests, including that of retired Gen. James Mattis, former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

“This memorial refresh is many years in the making and represents two key attributes of this campus – inclusivity and respect,” Chancellor Sandra Haynes said.

She said veterans have a large impact on the campus, as well as their fellow WSU Tri-Cities students. The expansion of the Stories Veterans Memorial and establishment of the General James Mattis Leadership Library, she said, is a special tribute to them and their service.

“Veterans enter the classroom with leadership skills,” Haynes said. “They have a strong work ethic that centers on team building and problem solving. Veterans are self-motivated and have a global perspective that informs the learning of other students … WSU Tri-Cities is proud to be able to serve them.”

“Stories” Veterans Memorial

The “Stories” Veterans Memorial, created by local artist Tom McClelland, features a collection of stories from regional veterans. With the expansion, the memorial now includes a larger concrete base that houses benches donated by the Schmieman family in honor of their late son Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman, as well as flag poles that display the American and U.S. military branch flags. The expansion and improvements were made possible by Cliff Thorn Construction, as well as Legacy Excavation, 1st Place Concrete and Absolute Power TC.

As part of the unveiling of the Stories Veterans Memorial, Mattis and other invited guests presented on the importance of the memorial.

“For me to be here, frankly, back in my hometown and recognizing veterans, is because I owe them so much,” Mattis said as part of his remarks. “I have a debt that I owe that I can never fully repay. We all owe them a debt for the freedom we are enjoying right now.”

As part of his remarks, Art King, chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5785, paid tribute to five military veterans, one of which included Sgt. Schmieman, who died alongside fellow service men and women when their cargo plane crashed in Mississippi.

“Dietrich was remembered for doing the right things with joy, treating all people fairly with love, kindness and a smile, helping encouraging others and giving his best,” King said. “Dietrich was a gifted young man with lots of choices in life, and he chose to serve his nation.”

A rock displaying a quote from Schmieman is now located alongside the Hero Tree on campus, which is planted next to the Stories Veterans Memorial.

The “Stories” Veterans Memorial is located along the Columbia River path on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, where individuals may stop and reflect. Individuals are also invited to sign a stone in honor of a loved one who served and place it at the base of the Hero Tree – planted next to the memorial.

General James Mattis Leadership Library

Following the unveiling of the memorial, guests headed to the unveiling of the General James Mattis Leadership Library now located in the WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center. The library features a collection of Mattis’ favorite books that have been influential throughout his career. The library was made possible by C. Mark Smith and the Richland Rotary Club of the Tri-Cities, who led fundraising efforts for the library.

Mattis, a Tri-Cities native, served as a four-star general with the U.S. Marine Corps and as 26th U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2017-2019. During his 44 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he commanded forces in the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Benjamin Bush spoke on the significance of now having the General James Mattis Leadership Library located in the Veterans Center, as well as what such a center means for WSU Tri-Cities veteran students.

“I can’t express to you guys enough just how much this space means to us,” he said.

For more information on how to give to support veteran students, contact Kelly Gabel, WSU Tri-Cities development coordinator, at 509-372-7398 or

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