Never Forgotten

Ensign Sarah Mitchell

In a rainy and somber ceremony, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets dedicated the engraving of the name of U.S. Navy Ensign Sarah Mitchell ’17 on the Ut Prosim Pylon during a ceremony Nov. 9.

Mitchell, of Feasterville, Pennsylvania, died July 8 during a Naval training exercise in the Red Sea. She was 23 and leaves behind a large loving family and a fiance, Dave Collins.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands gives his condolences to Mitchell’s family before the ceremony.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands gives his condolences to Mitchell’s family before the ceremony.

Mitchell’s is the 432nd name added to the Pylons and the first woman.

Cadets remember her as a hands-on and charismatic young leader. During her senior year, she commanded Alpha Company and was a Naval ROTC platoon commander.

“When I came to Alpha Company as a sophomore, she insisted on sitting down to have a meal with every new member of the company, making a conscious effort to get to know us as individuals,” said Cadet Daniel Grigg ’19. “This was characteristic of her sleeves-rolled-up, ownership-based approach to leadership, and it inspired all of those around her.”

She commissioned in May 2017 and reported to the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham as a surface warfare officer that June. The destroyer was on deployment to the Middle East.

“Sarah Mitchell was the best friend that I could ever ask for. We had so many memorable times together throughout college and after that I could never recount them all,” said Andrew Shivers ’17. “Sarah was the type of person that would never hesitate to help someone out or take on a task that needed to be done.”

Alpha Company Commander Mark McVeigh ’19 marches his cadets into the ceremony. As Mitchell’s company, Alpha stood at the front of the regiment, closest to the Pylons. (Photo by Cadet Charlie Alexander ‘19.)

Alpha Company Commander Mark McVeigh ’19 marches his cadets into the ceremony.

Members of Mitchell’s family joined the regiment and several hundred observers at the ceremony.

“The Corps was a huge part of Sarah’s life. She loved being part of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and felt honored to serve her country,” the Mitchell family said. “Sarah viewed the Pylons as sacred ground, and we are proud of Sarah and her sacrifice to our country. It is fitting that Sarah’s name will be inscribed on the Ut Prosim Pylon and an honor that Sarah will be the first woman to be added to the Pylons.”

The Pylons are etched with the names of every student and graduate who died defending our nation’s freedom, beginning with World War I.  

“When horrible accidents befall those we live with, work with, and care for, we often search frantically for some sort of deeper meaning behind the tragedy,” Grigg said. “I have come to realize that Sarah’s death serves as a reminder of one of life’s simplest and most painful truths. Life is unbelievably, abruptly, blink-and-you-miss-it short. Cherish it each day.”