Memorial Day Must Show Veterans Proper Respect
By Gary Fouse
During the last spring quarter, Professor Chuck O’Connell wrote an article in the New University taking issue with UCI’s commemoration of Memorial Day. He gave a list of wars with which he took issue with — all the way back to our war in the Philippines! It is not my intent here to debate our actions in each of those wars. My point of contention here is that O’Connell not only trashed our country, but our military and our troops as well.
I don’t know if O’Connell is a veteran. I am though; I must also add that I spent my three years in the US Army stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. Thus, I hold great respect for those who have served in combat, and will respect their opinions even if they are disillusioned about the wars they served in in Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam.
But where does O’Connell get off with statements like these?
“If a war is unjust, can those who fight it be ‘heroes’? If men and women fight an unjust war but think it honorable, is it not the responsibility of the university to point out the contradiction between their beliefs and reality? To not do so is to let them remain deceived and manipulated.”
“Note that nothing is said about the university’s responsibility to educate students — including student veterans — about unjust wars, imperialist wars, wars of aggression and war crimes.”
I would say that it is the veterans who can educate the university — both those who agree with O’Connell’s opinions and those who do not. In addition, it is the university’s responsibility to educate, not to indoctrinate the students with some professor’s personal view of the world.
“Note that nothing, absolutely nothing, is said about the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen — the children, the women, the men — who have died because of the American attacks. Their cumulative death toll now numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Note that the flags in Aldrich Park are for the Americans only. Note the nationalism promoted through this flag-planting ritual. Note that brown lives don’t matter. Note the racism of it all hiding behind honor and loyalty.”
Outrageous. Professor O’Connell cleverly implies here that our troops are racist killers who indiscriminately murder innocents. Not even mentioned are the actual terrorists and enemy fighters that our forces were facing in battle, including the Viet Cong, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS.
O’Connell also implies that the university doesn’t care about veterans who suffer from wounds, PTSD, suicidal tendencies and homelessness.
“Note that nothing is said of the tens of thousands of living veterans wounded by war: those with traumatic brain injury, with PTSD, with painful memories of sexual assault, with missing limbs and scarred bodies. Neither is there any mention of suicidal vets and homeless vets. Is it asking too much to recognize those living veterans who still suffer? Note the limitation of compassion in the silence.”
O’Connell apparently thinks that it is only his crowd that cares about these issues. I can assure him that those of us who support the commemoration of Memorial Day and who support our military do care about our suffering vets. Nobody is more outraged about the well-documented failures of the Veterans Administration than veterans themselves, whether we need their services or not.
Professor O’Connell, if you want to get up on your soap box and trash our country and our military, that is your First Amendment right. Guess who guaranteed that right: our military. Have we made mistakes? Sure. But no matter what you think of our military history, were it not for the US — specifically the US military — no country in the world would be free today. In my view, your article, especially your questioning the commemoration of our war and our veterans on Memorial Day, is truly despicable.
Gary Fouse is an adjunct teacher for UCI Extension. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.