Monday, November 21, 2005

Article I wrote for Stars and Stripes in December 2001

Note: I wrote a guest column for the Stars and Stripes that was published on Sunday, December 30, 2001. Unfortunately, it wasn't archived on the Stars and Stripes website, but we did place it on the SU4A website. The article was purged in the 2005 SU4A website renovation, but I was able to pull this off a Google 'cached' search. Enjoy.

Students United for America

at Columbia University

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Press Coverage

Stars and Stripes

Servicemembers deserve praise, not protests

by Eric ****

To all members of the United States Armed Forces, thank you.

I am a student at Columbia University in New York City and a member of Students United for Victory [ed: now Students United for America]. Our group represents a cross-section of young Americans. My classmates and I take pride in our common bond as Americans, which transcends our differences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, and economic background. As students at the premiere school in New York City, the epicenter of the war against terrorism, we feel a special responsibility to show the American people our commitment to the nation's fight against the enemy. The men and women serving in the military deserve the full support of the American people; as a representative of my classmates at Columbia, I am grateful for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the young men and women of my generation who serve our country.

Here, in New York City, a new sense of duty awakened on Sept. 11. While all Americans were attacked that day, the terrorists chose to hurt our city, our home, and they killed our brothers and sisters. New Yorkers were inspired by its heroes to come together to save the city we love in the frightening days immediately following the attacks, and the firefighters and police officers who perished in the World Trade Center continue to serve as our inspiration. Their heroism has reminded all of us of what it means to be an American.

American culture often implies that students at Columbia University and similar institutions around the country represent the best of America's youth. That is untrue. The truth is that the most important members of my generation are in uniform right now. They are the young soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who passed the test of character when they volunteered to shoulder their duty as Americans. They are our heroes. While college students are studying history, the young men and women who serve our country are making history. They are doing what is necessary right now to protect the American people.

The war against terrorism is a justified war. Today's college students were raised on the Vietnam War legacy, and we would be the first to protest the war against terrorism if we did not believe in it. The terrorists and those who help them deserve no compassion. The destruction of Sept. 11 is the price our country paid for its decade- long tolerance of terrorism, and our nation's only reasonable response is war. My classmates and I see it as our duty to protect our fellow Americans in the military from the radical fringe that wishes to take advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks by revisiting the Vietnam War protests.

I speak as a student at Columbia University, but I am also a veteran of the United States Army. I left the Army in April so I could attend Columbia University this fall, but I still feel the pride and honor of wearing the uniform. Since I left the Army, I have only grown more appreciative of the opportunity to serve my country.

My motivation for participating in Columbia University's Students United for Victory comes from my buddies who are still serving, especially the young soldiers who I helped to train. The day that I left the Army, the private who used to follow my orders became more important than me because he was a soldier and I was not. I knew that when I left the Army, I was leaving behind the most meaningful part of my life. The support I give to the military today, as a student, is small compared to the sacrifice that each soldier makes every day.

I used to be a private, so I know what it is like to be a young soldier making the internal transition from civilian to professional soldier. The military is not a fun occupation, and young soldiers, in particular, miss the luxuries and freedoms of civilian life. It took years, and a few promotions, before I internalized the importance of my duties and responsibilities. It is true that civilians take for granted many luxuries and freedoms that are denied to soldiers, but their lives are not blessed with the values, professionalism and comradeship that are woven into the military. Most civilians will never share in the honor and mission of protecting their country.

As a veteran, my advice to young soldiers is to believe in what you do, take pride in the uniform, and always remember that you are a professional soldier of the United States Armed Forces.

American history altered course on the morning of Sept. 11, but not in the way the terrorists envisioned. The terrorists made the same mistake that all of our nation's enemies made before them. They failed to understand the fundamental underpinning of America's greatness. The American people are descended from the toughest stock of humanity, and our forefathers never accepted fear, victimization or slavery. Our shared history has shown that the American people not only survive when faced with adversity, we thrive on the challenge; we become stronger.

I speak for not only Columbia students, but also college students around the country when I tell the men and women serving in the military that we recognize what they are doing for America. We hope that when our young soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen perform their duty in this war, they will be strengthened by the appreciation and support of their generation.

On behalf of college students across America, thank you.

Copyright © 2003 SU4A.

Last Updated Mon May 26 19:18:55 2003

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Stars & Stripes, Friday, December 28, 2001, by Lisa Burgess, Sandra Jontz and Patrick Dickson: Special report: Campus reaction to the war on terrorism *

* Contains links to entire Stars & Stripes series about campus reaction to the military response to 9/11, featuring Students United for Victory. I'm quoted the most and pictured in this article of the series.

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