After being rescued by Carter, Harrell was awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945. To replace his missing hands, Harrell received prosthetic hooks, which he became adept at using. While he never completed his degree, Harrell moved to San Antonio, where he worked as a contact representative with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tragically, on Aug. 9, 1964, Harrell presumably shot and killed another World War II amputee, Edward Zumwalt, and Zumwalt’s wife, Geraldine, before turning the gun on himself. There was no motive ever discovered for the murder-suicide, leaving many unanswered questions.
Despite Harrell’s mysterious death, Harrell Corps Residence Hall was dedicated to him in 1969. Harrell’s Medal of Honor is currently on loan to the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center and will be permanently donated upon the passing of Gary Harrell, his son.
Clarence E. Sasser ’73
Unlike the other Medal of Honor recipients, Clarence Sasser ’73 fought in the Vietnam War and didn’t attend Texas A&M until after his service. Sasser studied chemistry part-time at the University of Houston until 1967 when he was drafted into the Army as a private first class and medic.
Amid a search and destroy mission in Vietnam on Jan. 10, 1968, 12 helicopters were attacked, forcing an emergency landing. Thirty men suffered injuries or death upon touchdown, including Sasser, who was shot in the right leg. Sasser pulled himself through the flooded paddy, helping every soldier he could until supplies ran out. Though medics were high-profile targets with distinctive bags, Sasser dragged one colleague to safety and was returning for another when a mortar shell struck nearby and peppered him with shrapnel. Sasser kept working, refusing any medical aid for himself. Eighteen hours after the assault began, backup evacuated the survivors, of which Sasser was the only living medic.
On March 7, 1969, Sasser became one of 20 African American soldiers to receive a Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War. Texas A&M President James Earl Rudder ’32 invited Sasser to attend Texas A&M in 1969, but he left after one semester to work at an oil refinery before transferring to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Houston.
Sasser was not included in the MSC Hall of Honor until 2013, when Texas A&M officially displayed his military portrait, Medal of Honor citation and a replica of his medal alongside those of the other seven. In 2014, Sasser received an honorary doctoral degree from Texas A&M—an award bestowed on only 66 individuals in university history.
A New Campus Home for Veterans Near the Hall of Honor
“Serve well those who have served.”
The veteran population at Texas A&M includes approximately 1,250 current students who have served in the military. Due to their typically higher age, veterans can undergo a series of transitions to return to civilian life and begin college, working through their different experiences, social interests and ideas that separate them from non-veteran students.
Originally opened in 2012, the Veteran Resource and Support Center (VRSC) has provided help and a caring environment for student veterans to bridge that gap. In July 2020, the VRSC moved to the lower level of the MSC before Don and Ellie Knauss donated $5 million toward veterans’ scholarships and renovations to relocate to the upper level of the MSC, subsequently expanding the space to better serve the student veteran population.
The newly renovated center, now named in the Knausses’ honor, will offer various community, peer-led, financial aid, transition, mental health and career-readiness programs, helping veterans connect with each other and adjust to civilian life. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., students can visit the VRSC to utilize resources, obtain free textbooks, meet with staff by appointment or simply find a quiet place to study.
“We believe that education is the one way to ensure that veterans can maximize their full potential,” Ellie Knauss said. “It was a very easy decision with our interest in educational philanthropy to make sure that some of the people we feel are most deserving get the help they need. We think education is the great equalizer of opportunity.”