LEWISTON — Steven Arango never met Capt. George “Alexi” Whitney, but he still feels a connection to the late Bates College graduate.

Having spent a semester at Bates, Arango understands the commitment required by Whitney to have graduated cum laude from Bates in 2000. But the greater connection is that both men served in the Marines, though never together.

Whitney was an officer in a recon battalion in Iraq and later worked as a paramilitary officer for the CIA. “He was a Renaissance man with all he accomplished,” Arango said.

So when Arango heard about Whitney’s death while working for the CIA in Afghanistan, he felt compelled to do something to honor his fallen comrade.

Bates, however, does not have any memorials for veterans on its campus. Arango hopes to change that.

Arango wants to present the college with a bust of Whitney and a memorial marble or granite marker with the names of Bates veterans. He estimates the stone would hold up to 250 names. He envisions its placement along a walkway near Garcelon Field.

Garcelon Field is where the college’s football and lacrosse teams play. Whitney was the starting fullback on the football team and was a starting midfielder in lacrosse.

RUNNING THROUGH BRICK WALLS

George Alexius Whitney was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, on Feb. 16, 1978. He graduated from Brooks School, a private school in North Andover, Mass., in 1996 and enrolled at Bates College that fall. Known by his friends as “Alexi,” Whitney majored in classics.

“One of the best guys I have ever met,” said Aaron Sells, a 2001 Bates graduate. He is now CEO of a marketing company in Boston and is one of several people helping Arango.

Sells, who considered Whitney one of his best friends at Bates, was a lacrosse teammate.

“He was the hardest worker on and off the field,” Sells said. “He was a loyal friend. He would run through a brick wall for you. I think those qualities carried on into his work in the military.”

After graduating, Whitney joined the Marines and was deployed in Anbar Province in Iraq in 2002 as a captain in the 3rd Marine Reconnaissance Battalion.

After leaving the Marines in 2006, Whitney worked for the CIA. He was killed during a mission on Dec. 18, 2016, outside the city of Jalalabad, according to the New York Times. He was 38 years old.

The mission and details of his death will likely remain classified for years, Arango said.

He was the 18th CIA contractor or paramilitary officer to die in action since 9/11, according to The Times.

HONORING A HERO

Arango arrived at Bates in the fall of 2011 and lasted one semester before Maine’s cold temperatures sent the Southerner packing, he said.

A lieutenant in the Marines, Arango is attending law school at the University of Alabama. Upon graduation, he will be recommissioned into the Marines.

He had never heard of Whitney until he read about his death. His short stay at Bates left him in awe of Whitney’s talents – the ability to graduate with honors as well as play two varsity sports. And as a Marine, Arango knows the training required to serve on a reconnaissance unit and then to work as a paramilitary officer for the CIA.

Arango calls Whitney an “American hero.”

Memorializing him at Bates was the perfect location because that is where 18- to 22-year-olds are most influenced about their place in the world, Arango said.

He found an artist, retired Marine Col. Lee Busby of Alabama, to make a bust of Whitney. Busby has volunteered his time to create busts of several servicemen who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arango expects the bronze bust to be completed by late December or early January.

OPTIONS FOR TRIBUTE

Bowdoin and Colby colleges have multiple memorials on campus to honor their war veterans from the Civil War through Vietnam. Not Bates.

Instead of a marker, plaque or some other permanent location, the college has used other means to honor such individuals.

“To honor veterans on our campus, we have artwork, endowed financial aid funds, and Veterans Day recognition events each year,” Bates College spokesman Sean Findlen wrote in an email.

Financial aid is terrific, Arango said, but only the person receiving the scholarship will learn of the sacrifice made. However, a memorial on campus would allow students, members of the Bates community and visitors to learn about their lives and sacrifices.

He is seeking a 4-by-4-foot spot for a 6- to 8-foot-tall marker with a bust of Whitney on top.

He described the response from Bates to his initial offer as “lukewarm.” His last response from the administration was an email that simply read: “Thank you so much for the additional information.”

That hasn’t lessened his enthusiasm.

“Some Bates alumni have said to me that it’s been too long for there to be no memorial on campus,” Arango said.

Because of the diligence of Arango and other supporters, Bates may be moving toward a permanent memorial.

“We are also in the planning stages of a more general memorial to recognize the lives of those who have served in the U.S. armed forces,” Findlen said.

He said college officials are discussing with members of the Bates community the potential ways to honor Whitney.

“Different individuals, including a classmate and close friend of Mr. Whitney, have been in touch with various suggestions about how Bates might honor him. We are open to a range of possibilities and are in the early stages of discussions,” Findlen said.

Those possibilities include a scholarship fund and the memorial Arango hopes to place on campus.

Arango said he doesn’t care whether he gets credit for his idea to place a memorial to Bates veterans. He just feels it is his mission to see the project through to completion.