Six Hawkeye veterans inducted into memorial - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Six Hawkeye veterans inducted into memorial

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

Hawkeye football legends and a famous airman were among those honored with an induction into a veteran memorial in eastern Iowa.

On Tuesday, six men were honored and inducted into the Hawkeye Distinguished Veterans Memorial Award. All men share the common tie of a strong connection to the University of Iowa and exceptional military service.

The list boasts a strong group of notable names -- from former University of Iowa President Sandy Boyd, to Luther Smith, a Tuskegee Airman, to two Iowa football greats: Nile Kinnick and former head coach, Hayden Fry. Kinnick was Iowa's sole Heisman winner who died serving in World War II. 

Also honored was David Drake and Jeremy Williams. Drake is a Vietnam War veteran who graduated from Iowa. Williams was a 15-year U.S. Army media who was deployed to Kuwait. 

Smith's award was accepted by his son, Gordon Smith. Smith said his father was insistent on becoming a pilot during a time when the Army Air Corps didn't allow African-Americans to serve as airmen. Instead, he began studying engineering at Iowa to become an airman. In 1942, he was accepted into the Tuskegee Institute Flying Program.

"He flew 133 combat missions. That was one of the higher totals for all pilots in World War II," Smith said.

Luther Smith was injured in his final mission and was a POW for seven months. 

Don Patterson, who was the assistant coach for the Hawkeye football team under Hayden Fry, accepted the award on behalf of Fry and Kinnick. 

"I think it will mean more than so many others because it ties into his military service. I wasn't lying when I said he took great pride in the service time he spent in Korea," Patterson said about Fry's recognition compared to his long list of accomplishments.

For Williams, he said it was humbling to be in the same group as the other five men.

"I'm just incredibly honored to be among this group of extremely accomplished individuals. Each person has given so much to the military and to this country and to the University of Iowa," he said.

A plaque honoring each of the veterans for their service can be found inside the University of Iowa's Memorial Union. The award began in 2015 and each year a group is recognized for their service.

More information can be found about each of the six men here.

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