United States Navy Ensign Zachary Eckhart, a 2007 graduate of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and a 2008 graduate of Virginia Tech, was killed late Monday afternoon in the crash of his T-39 training aircraft in Georgia. He was 25.

Eckhart was from Orefield, Pa., and graduated from Northwestern Lehigh High School in 2003. During his time in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, Eckhart was a member of the Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties, and served as the Third Battalion Academics Officer for the spring semester of his senior year.

He is remembered by the senior band cadets, who were freshmen when Eckhart was a senior, as always smiling and positive about everything he did. They also mention how he always took the extra time to check on the freshmen to help them succeed academically and he continued to mentor them even after he graduated from the corps and was completing his academic work at Virginia Tech.

Eckhart earned a degree in aerospace engineering from the College of Engineering and the W. Thomas Rice Center’s minor in leadership studies. Eckhart is survived by his wife, the former Sarah LaMotte, who earned a degree in history and a minor in Russian from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences in 2007.

Lt. j.g. Andrew Myers, U.S. Navy, an alumnus of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2007 shared his thoughts, “Zach Eckhart was a truly great friend, and one who will be sorely missed. I fondly remember band practices and performances in the Highty-Tighties, as well as uniform inspections and drill in Navy ROTC. After graduation we were lucky enough to have a small group of Hokies in flight training in Pensacola, Fla. This large family that we all become a part of the day that we stepped foot onto campus, will always be a part of us. It allows us to come together, support each other, and celebrate the life of a fond shipmate, bud, and brother.”

Mike Mueller, an alumnus of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2007 stated, “A friend to everyone, he was admired by not only his buds but upperclassmen and underclassmen alike for his good nature and downright kindness. Zach was one of the most approachable human beings I ever knew. He was one of those rare types of people who didn’t judge first and ask questions later. He would routinely help others who were struggling with schoolwork, even if he had never taken the class they were struggling with, maybe sometimes at the expense of his own studying. He simply was the kind of person that we all strive to be; one who always put others before himself. He truly defined what it was to be a man of service to his nation, his community, and his family and friends.”

Ensign Eric Kalick, U.S. Navy, an alumnus of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2009 remarked, “Zach was a very caring individual and it was an honor to call him a friend. I am deeply saddened that I am saying goodbye to such a great person. You could always count on Zach to help you out whenever he could. He was that friend everyone wishes they had -- the guy that was always ready when you were.”

“Just last Friday the Regiment fell out to honor Marine Capt. Seth Mitchell, killed in operations in Afghanistan in late October, whose name was engraved on our War Memorial. And now to hear of the loss of another one of our brothers will sharpen their focus as to the seriousness of their training. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sarah and the entire Eckhart family,” said retired Col. Richard Roszak, U.S. Air Force, alumni director for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Regimental Commander, Cadet Peter Laclede of Fairfax, Va., a senior double-majoring in political science and history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and pursuing a minor in leadership studies, addressed the entire corps Wednesday morning about their loss and the cadets observed a moment of silence in honor of Eckhart. The Regiment lowered the flag on Upper Quad to half-staff and it will remain at half-staff through Friday.

A Pylon Dedication Ceremony will be scheduled in the future and more details will be posted on the corps website and the corps alumni website as they are available.

The Pylons are a representation of Virginia Tech’s values. The values engraved on the eight pylons are, (from left to right): Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). The Pylons are etched with the names of every Virginia Tech student and graduate who has died defending our nation’s freedom beginning with those lost during World War I. Eckhart will be the 426th name added to the Pylons. At the War Memorial’s center, the cenotaph displays the names of Virginia Tech’s seven Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

To date, Virginia Tech has lost nine former students who were killed in the line of duty during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2001 alumnus 2nd Lt. Jeffrey J. Kaylor, U.S. Army was killed in April 2003;
  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2001 alumnus 1st Lt. Timothy E. Price, U.S. Army was killed in September 2004;
  • Virginia Tech Class of 2006 member Spc. Nicholas C. Mason, U.S. Army was killed in December 2004 while on a military leave of absence from the university;
  • Virginia Tech Class of 1995 member Staff Sgt. Nathaniel J. Nyren, U.S. Army was killed in December 2004;
  • Virginia Tech Class of 2002 alumnus Cpl. Christopher L. Weaver, U.S. Marine Corps was killed in January 2005;
  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2001 alumnus Lt. Nick Brantley, U.S. Navy was killed in September 2005;
  • Virginia Tech Class of 2003 alumnus Staff Sgt. Jesse Clowers, U.S. Army was killed in August 2007; and
  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Class of 2001 alumnus Capt. David Seth Mitchell, U.S. Marine Corps was killed in October 2009.

Those in the university community who may wish assistance or desire counseling support may contact:

Referrals to a campus cleric may be done through the Dean of Students Office at (540) 231-3787.

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Learn more about the Gobble de Art HokieBird honoring U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas N. “Nick” Brantley in Virginia Tech News Campus Snapshots:

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