Why Can't Students Honor Veterans and Sacrifice?


“You have blood all over you. I can smell it,” one female protester yelled.

Sacrifice and honor should always go hand-in-hand. But sometimes, to some people, they don’t – and the result is infuriating. So at the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I want to know: What is wrong with young people today?

When retired Gen. David Petreaus left the City University of New York's campus Sept. 9 – two days before that city marked yet another year since the Sept. 11 attacks shook their lives to the core – student protestors surrounded him and chased him down the street. They yelled obscenities and accusations. They chanted and shouted to the world that he is a war criminal.


Petreaus didn’t even acknowledge the protestors. He walked quickly on, stoically gazing forward. But they just continued to yell.

And then there is what happened at Middlebury College in Vermont only a few days later.

When five people ripped almost 3,000 American flags from a 9/11 memorial at a college in Vermont early this month they did so to protest “colonialism,” which pushed out  the Native American Abenaki Nation from occupying New England. They said the memorial was desegregating an Abenaki burial ground, even though no evidence exists to label any part of the college campus as such, school and tribal officials said.

Their protest was not officially affiliated with the Abenaki Nation. That tribe’s president, a US Army veteran whose son also served in Iraq with the National Guard, denounced the actions in a statement sent to a local paper.

They protested the removal of a native people by desecrating a memorial to innocent Americans who lost their lives on a Tuesday for no reason except they went to work or got on an airplane.

As I watched the Petreaus video and read about the flag removal I thought of our brave Vietnam Veterans who endured similar jeers from a similar age group when they came home from battle. I thought of the 12 people who died at the Navy Yard just last week. I thought of those who have lost their lives in service -- whether uniformed or otherwise -- everywhere from a field in Pennsylvania to a processing center on Fort Hood.

And I cried.

Isn’t sacrifice worth anything? Isn't it worth even a little honor?

Maybe it’s that I know what sacrifice looks like and these student protestors don’t. As a spouse to part of the one percent of Americans who serve in the military, I know when honor is due because I’ve seen it first-hand. I’ve held a sobbing Gold Star mom. I’ve attended the military memorials.

Those families served so that others don’t have to.

But why don't these students know that?

To be fair, these student protestors are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of students across the country, many of whom daily honor sacrifice. The 9/11 memorial flags that were torn out of the ground were put in place by a student group to start with.

A college education is supposed to be more than a holding pen for smart little kids until they grow up enough to pay their own cell phone bills.  A college education is meant to broaden the mind.  The Petraeus protestors didn't know enough about the war to actually list anything they thought he had done that might have been a war crime.  They resorted immediately to name calling, their faces confused about what exactly they were supposed to say.

And the 9/11 memorial protestors hadn't done enough research to know that officials with the tribe they were touting would be appalled by their actions.

What I worry about is that the only thing college students are learning is how to get shocking video into the media.  They are learning that they don't need a well thought out argument, just a half-assed, shock and awe media campaign.

I don't insist on worship for war heroes or eternal silence about the victims of violent and senseless acts.  But when the American people spend billions on our colleges and universities, I want to get something for the money.

I want to see a little honor.

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