SDSU student dies in Iraq, school mourns

Faith Moldan

Faith Moldan

One gold star stands out from the blue ones on the service flag that hangs above the main entrance of SDSU’s Administration Building.

“The SDSU family grieves for the loss of one of our sons,” South Dakota State University President Peggy Miller said. “Let us all pray that we will never have to replace another star in this way.”

Spc. Gregory Tull of Pocahontas, Iowa, was killed Nov. 25 in an attack near Hit, Iraq. Tull attended SDSU from 2003 to 2004. He was scheduled to come home within the next month, after being in Iraq since early this year. Tull was the gunner on an armored Humvee when an

improvised explosive was detonated near the vehicle. A National Guard spokesman said, “He didn’t have a great deal of protection other than the protective gear he had on. You’re somewhat exposed from that particular kind of blast in that position on that vehicle.”

Flags were flown at half-mast on campus Monday by request of President Miller and Governor Rounds. A service was held in front of the Administration Building, with the lowering of the American flag and altering of the service flag. Long-time friend of the university, Kathy Larsen, made the banner in 2003. V.J. Smith, SDSU alumni director, and President Miller requested that a banner be made at the start of the Iraq war. She said it’s not about her, but about the people that are serving.

“The banner serves as a reminder to all of us here that there are members of our SDSU family serving on active duty in the military … that we should keep them in our thoughts until they return home safely,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Science Jerry Jorgensen.

The banner was modeled after a World War I display that was meant to recognize SDSU students and faculty serving in the armed forces. During World War I, more than 200 students served in the military. Smith said alumni appreciate the fact that the university remembers.

“The news of the loss of any soldier is always heartbreaking. This news hits especially close to home,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen, a colonel in the United States Army, was called to active duty in June 2004 to serve for one year at the Pentagon.

“For me personally, as a soldier, it serves as a painful reminder of the terrible cost of war. My heart goes out to his family for their loss,” Jorgensen said.

The university family sent flowers to the memorial service at his local church.

Tull, born in Phoenix, Ariz., in December 1984, was attending SDSU the Fall 2004 semester until he was activated on Nov. 2, 2004 in the Iowa Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery. He qualified as a forward observer and proud of his service.

“He was very confident in what he did, a very bright young man and he really was a go-to-guy in his unit,” said a guard spokesman. “He was a guy who didn’t shirk his duty. He wanted to be where it was happening.”

Tull is survived by his mother and father, Eileen and Gary Tull, and brother Bryan, all of Pocahontas. He is also survived by his grandparents, Bill and Janet Velau, of Garner, Iowa, and Erland and Phyllis Nelson, of Humboldt. The family asks that their privacy be respected at this time.

A group of alumni headed by Jim Wooster is raising money to begin a scholarship to honor Tull, according to President Miller. Tull will not be forgotten as his name was placed on the gold star. Larsen said it was hard to put all the stars on the banner because she knows a lot of students.

“It was hard to do then, and it’s harder to do now,” she said.

#1.884832:1800621722.jpg:soldierrecog01_tc.jpg:Kathy Larsen adds the gold star with Spc. Gregory Tull’s name to the banner outside of the Administration Building Monday during a special service honoring Tull.:Ty Carlson#1.884831:860650316.jpg:gregtull_crtsy.jpg:Spc. Gregory Tull: