Letter clean-up resurrected

Letter clean-up resurrected Through a community service project, The University of South Dakota Department of Military Science's Prairie Fire Battalion has resurrected a nearly forgotten tradition.

According to Captain Stacey Barr, an assistant professor of Military Science, the Prairie Fire Battalion coordinated Operation Coyote Cleanup on Wednesday, Sept. 23 in which students cleared the white USD letters area located on the Vermillion Bluffs. Members of the Battalion and students from across the campus cooperated on this cleanup project.

Years ago, freshmen in the ROTC program had the responsibility of clearing the area free of debris and foliage, Barr said.

"We are trying to resurrect a tradition which started when there was forced enrollment (in the ROTC program) and freshman students were required to do a community project," Barr said. "We simply have fewer students and cadets than those years, so the department looked at other options, including inviting other students and organizations to participate.

"This is something we want to set up as an activity every Dakota Days," she added.

Barr said this idea developed from conversations with USD Foundation President Ted Muenster. Initially, the department was unable to execute the event, due to a lack of cadets, until Second Lieutenant James Helmberger, a Gold Bar Recruiter and recent graduate from USD, presented the idea to utilize student volunteers.

"This cleanup project is a very positive thing," Barr said. "Although this was an ROTC function or a project undertaken by a fraternity or sorority, it became a university effort this year.

"By having the event during Dakota Days, students had the opportunity to show pride in their university," she added. "We received a lot of support from various University organizations, especially the students, and local businesses, which is very encouraging. It is great to have the University and local community work together on this."

The Military Science Department received support from USD Facilities Management, as well as The Bluffs Golf Course, including the use of chainsaws and landscaping equipment. In addition, area businesses joined the effort, including Hy-Vee, Jones' Food Center, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Subway and KVHT Radio.

"The letters pre-date World War II," Muenster said. "They were put there before highway 50 was developed," he said. "I believe we are paying more attention to tradition. I think the restoration of Old Main was a linchpin in getting us to honor the University and its history. We need to do that in respect for the institution and the thousands who walked the halls and crosswalks at USD."

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