Veteran’s Day is a time to honor those individuals who have and continue to sacrifice their lives for the security and freedom of the United States. It is a day of remembrance and reflection that culminates in a realization of just how truly great it is to be an American. Flags are flown, ceremonies are held and veterans receive the recognition they so deserve.
As a grandchild and child of veterans, I cherish this day as a time to recognize the patriotism exhibited by my family and the lessons these outstanding men have taught me about family, loyalty and the challenges of life. What I saw this Veteran’s Day as I walked through Tate Plaza caused me to stop dead in my tracks, however. UGA Silver Wings, a student organization on our campus, was spreading awareness about ROTC programming while also sending a larger message about the POWs still missing in action from previous military campaigns. To punctuate their message, they had an actor quite literally tied up inside of a cage for all to see.
Freedom of speech is a beautiful part of our country, and as a journalist and student I value the right. In addition, I value the 83,000 missing servicemen and women from WWII, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War. Locating and recovering missing soldiers is a problem facing our military, similar to instances of cruel treatment of prisoners, increased instances of post-traumatic stress disorder and others. UGA Silver Wings is a great student organization for raising awareness of this issue and devoting their time to assist veterans. Today, however, was not the time to showcase the POW/MIA issue.
On a day to honor our servicemen and women, reminding them of times soldiers were left behind is inappropriate. Instead, it adds an element of shame to a day that should be filled with family, friends and celebration. When I saw the demonstration, I was offended that this organization, however noble its intentions, would cast a pall on the day by highlighting one of the most tragic aspects of warfare. To me, the organization’s message was muddled, its execution uncomfortably theatrical.
There is a time and place to raise awareness of issues plaguing the U.S. military, but Tate Plaza — more commonly home to yelling preachers — on Veteran’s Day was not one of them.
—Sarah Smith is a senior studying international affairs and history