[The Nov. 20] edition of the Ledger included a letter submitted by fellow veteran Christopher Wu. Wu’s submission included claims that are a gross mischaracterization of the spirit of the UW Tacoma Veteran Appreciation flag placement and actions taken by Veteran & Military Resource Center Associate Director, Rosalynn Johnson.
The intent of this year’s flag placement was to recognize the service of these individuals during a dark era for veterans in our nation’s history. Nearly all of those drafted came from poor or middle-class families without the means to defer enlistment. Many of these men were forced into service with no choice but to serve or become a felon at the federal level. Consequently, many of those that did survive returned to a government and populace that either shunned them, or failed to support them when they returned home. It was this abhorrent treatment which led to reforms in access to veteran healthcare and disability benefits, and the strengthening of veteran education programs that many veterans, including Wu, enjoy today. Furthermore, the end of the Vietnam War marked the end of the selective service draft, leading to the all-volunteer force serving today. Again, a force Wu was a part of.
Wu presented the assertion he reached out to Johnson, only to be ignored. This gives the false impression that there was no further action taken on his question. After receipt of his email, Johnson connected Wu to the UW Tacoma assistant vice chancellor for external relations, to provide him further background information of the event. Additionally, Wu made no attempt to contact leadership with Student Veterans at UW Tacoma (co-planners of the event) to seek the intent and purpose of the placement. He did not involve himself at all in the planning and execution process, though he had numerous avenues – early and often via SVO meetings and official VMRC gatherings – to make his concerns heard and addressed.
For those unfamiliar with Veterans Day, here is some background. It began as Armistice Day through the passage of Congressional Act 52, Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a passed May 13, 1938 marking November 11th – the official signing of the treaties ending World War I. This was done to observe the loss of life the Allied Forces and people of Europe suffered at the hands of the German Army. The intent was to observe those losses through a proclamation to strive for world peace. The official title was then amended by Congress to Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize the service of all veterans of the United States Armed Forces, past and present.
Wu asserts that the planned display was a “form of hero worship.” This is misrepresentative of the truth. As a member of the veteran community, he should know we have not – and do not – consider ourselves heroes. We view our service as nothing more than a job, and go out of our way to not seek attention for doing so. Hollywood films depicting events from combat are more a form of hero worship, and something most in the veteran community do not appreciate. More correctly, we pick apart inaccuracies of the uniforms, language and tactical movements, while detesting how those films present veterans as broken figures. It is important to separate fantasy from reality.
There is nothing heroic about war. Combat is ugly and indiscriminate in its function. The loss of life and lasting wounds – physical and mental – remain beyond the end of conflict. This is fact for all involved, whether it’d be opposing military forces, families of our own service members or the citizens of the nation where it takes place. Glorifying war is akin to glorifying the taking of another life, something that is only done as a last resort. Though heroic actions can arise from extraordinary circumstances, these are few and far between.
In the end, Wu is entitled to his opinion on the matter – it is his protected right. But, he presented his opinion as a distortion of fact to make the argument that he was ignored. Doing this without supporting claim is reckless, and greatly mischaracterizes the intent and actions of those behind the implementation of this event.
President, Student Veterans at UWT