Hood ’17.5: Veterans unwelcome

Op-Ed Contributor
Monday, November 14, 2016

Let’s not forget Veterans Day is a time-honored tradition when a nation celebrates those who have served and honors those taken too early for the sake of American freedom. These men and women paid the ultimate price fighting for their blessed motherland. So if you see a veteran, please be sure to tell them how worthless they are and to go f*#k themselves because that is what some members of the Brown community have already expressed to them.

What a shameful display it would have been to the veteran students, veteran alums, active-duty members and other honored guests attending the Veterans Day ceremony to see their flag ripped down, torn, stomped on and destroyed. I heard some students say that they destroyed these flags because they “have no respect for our country,” and veterans are “blind followers trained to kill and enslave people.” That people would say this is beyond me. Perhaps the best comment I heard was a student who told me service members were “too stupid to go to college.” Not only is the last statement ignorant, but it is completely false. There are 12 undergraduate veterans at Brown, and many more in the Graduate School and Alpert Medical School. Apparently this sort of hostile environment is one some Brown students want to foster.

I am a veteran of two wars, and I know this: We are the few that fight for freedom. We love our land. We would never, as some individuals chose to do this past week, stomp on or trash another nation’s flag. To other veterans and myself, the American flag is more than fabric. It is a symbol of service, duty and honor. It is a constant reminder of what and whom we fought for: all of the American people — the flag defamers and the flag saluters, the dirt-poor and the ultra-rich, the uneducated and the literate, the Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between. The nation’s elections do not change this unwavering commitment: From election to election, a veteran is a veteran and as such holds no allegiance except unto their country. But tearing and shaming our flag means that you are casting aside our service, sacrifice and loss as worthless. It means the years stationed far away from our loved ones were all spent in vain. It means those who never saw their families again fought and died for nothing.

Following the incidents mentioned above, several veteran students took to social media to express their outrage. But the events that followed were inspiring. On Veterans Day some student veterans and several sympathetic students met on the Main Green to return the flags to their original places. Furthermore, an additional 100 flags were placed along the procession path. Because the flags were set up in the morning, all the veterans had classes to attend but were hesitant to abandon the flags, given the previous day’s events. In response to such worries several students chose to remain on the green to prevent people from destroying the flags while the vets were in class. By the time the vets had returned, many more students had assembled on the Main Green.

When the procession began, many students followed to where the ceremony was to be held. Last year, the Veterans Day ceremony consisted of a couple dozen people. But due to the flag desecrations, the venomous dialogue hurled at the student veterans and the outcry on social media, the ceremony was larger than it has ever been. With close to a hundred in attendance, there weren’t enough seats available, and almost everyone had to stand. Several students chose to remain on the Main Green during the ceremony to prevent any more defamation. This display of reverence to the veterans was astonishing. The support from some of the community demonstrated the respect that should be embraced on Veterans Day. 

Remember, Veterans Day is supposed to be a day of respect. Whether or not you respect the president is one thing, but we live in a country protected by volunteers. These volunteers are not politicians. They do not fight for the Republicans, for the Democrats, for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or President-Elect Donald Trump. They fight for the American public. They are comprised of every race, ethnicity, sexuality and affiliation. As such, they deserve to be treated with respect for their service and sacrifice, not belittled and attacked.

Tristan Hood ’17.5 can be reached at tristan_hood@brown.edu.

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