Wright State University and its Veteran and Military Center will dedicate the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden, an outdoor space that honors veterans, military-connected students and those who support them.
Wright State will hold a dedication ceremony on Friday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m., outside the Veteran and Military Center and Millett Hall. A reception will follow in the Veteran and Military Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The garden is named in honor of Shawn English, a 1999 Wright State Army ROTC graduate who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.
The ceremony will include remarks from Wright State President Sue Edwards, Ph.D.; Seth Gordon, Ph.D., director of the Veteran and Military Center; Jacob Bashore, who participated in Army ROTC with English; Anthony Heiland, president of the Wright State Veteran and Military Society; and Tricia English, Shawn English’s widow.
Tricia English said memorializing Shawn English with a campus garden space that is open to everyone is a special honor because Wright State and its Army ROTC program changed the trajectory of Shawn’s life.
“It was such an instrumental place that gave him, not the confidence, but the competence that led him to believe that he could be a good officer,” Tricia English said. “He knew he had those skills, but he needed the education. It was at Wright State where he gained that competence, a belief in himself and self-efficacy.”
Located outside the Veteran and Military Center near Millett Hall and parking lot 10, the Champion Garden is open to all members of the Wright State community.
The garden celebrates those who support — or champion — veterans, including other veterans themselves, family members, faculty, staff and those who work with them.
“This is a public space that celebrates the student and non-student veterans, active duty and the champions of people who support veterans, who include a lot of our students, staff and faculty,” Gordon said. “It celebrates people’s family members, their parents and aunts and uncles. This is a place for all of us to honor the community of care that supports our current and former service members.”
The garden also provides a gathering space to help military-connected students feel that they belong at Wright State by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions. The outdoor space features comfortable patio seating and tables under a large pergola.
A bench in the garden memorializes Christopher Roche II, who worked in the Veteran and Military Center as a student and died in 2020. Roche majored in cyber security and served in the U.S. Navy before transferring to the Navy Reserves.
Community members can support the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden by purchasing an inscribed brick or patio paver or an inscribed dog tag. Learn more at wright.edu/VMCgarden.
Support for the Captain Shawn L. English Champion Garden has been provided by many donors including George B. Quatman Foundation, Fifth Third Bank Trustee; the Wright State President’s Office and the Wright State University Foundation; the University of Dayton; Raytheon; and Cargill.
About Shawn English
Born into an unstable family, Shawn English spent the first seven years of his life in foster care before he was adopted by Don and Lois English. He grew up on a farm in New Albany, Ohio, raising sheep for 4-H and playing football, basketball and baseball at New Albany High School.
After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Army, and, as a cavalry scout with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, deployed on missions to Honduras, Panama and Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm.
He eventually left the Army to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications studies at Wright State.
Interested in returning to the Army to lead soldiers, he joined the Army ROTC Raider Battalion and participated in the Army’s Green to Gold Program, which provides enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree and earn a commission as an Army officer.
As an older, more experienced student, English mentored the younger ROTC cadets, helping them develop the tools necessary to lead soldiers when they left Wright State. English regularly emphasized to the cadets and the soldiers he later led his maxim to always “do the harder right over the easier wrong.”
In 1999, English graduated from Wright State and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
He was selected as an Army dive officer, serving as the 74th Engineer Dive Team platoon leader in Ft. Eustis, Virginia, and later as the commander of the 577th Delta Company Army Dive Detachment at the Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.
He then deployed to Iraq to lead a Military Transition Team with the 577th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade. His team trained and mentored Iraqi infantry soldiers.
English was killed in action while on patrol in Baghdad on Dec. 3, 2006, when an explosively formed penetrator detonated near his Humvee. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Service Medals for his sacrifice.
He was 35. He is survived by his wife, Tricia English, and three sons, Nathan, Noah and Austin.