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At Harvard, discourse surrounding the U.S. military is awash with issues such as President Bush’s foreign policy, the war in Iraq, military recruitment on campus and the Solomon Amendment. While these dialogues are important to promoting political engagement, these policy debates can splinter the unity of the Harvard community. Similar to the growing partisanship in Washington, it is apparent from the current ideological warfare among students that Harvard seems to be following suit. But in celebration of Veteran’s Day, which coincides with the recent U.S. troop death toll in Iraq reaching 2,000, it is important that the Harvard community honor the dedication and sacrifice of our countrymen and women in uniform.
In hopes of encouraging campus wide appreciation and commemoration of the sacrifices of the U.S. troops, the Harvard College Democrats and Harvard Republican Club (HRC) are joining in an unprecedented partnership by co-sponsoring “Support Our Troops Week” at Harvard. “Support Our Troops Week” seeks to promote the often underrepresented message among the Harvard community that all Americans should acknowledge and understand the dedication and sacrifices of U.S. servicemen and women both at home and abroad. That regardless of your political affiliation, U.S. troops dedicate their lives to protecting America. Supporting U.S. troops who protect America is not about the war in Iraq, it is not about whether one agrees with President Bush’s policies, it is not about agreeing with the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it is about respect for our peers and countrymen. This unprecedented partnership of the Dems and HRC encourages students of differing political beliefs to agree that as U.S. citizens, the least we owe our troops is a humble thank you.
Throughout this week, representatives from the Dems and HRC will be tabling in houses to collect donations for an adopted platoon. They will also be handing out yellow ribbons and support your troops pins to the student body. On Wednesday, leaders from both organizations will be conducting a rally during lunch in front of the Science Center. The week will finish with a “Support Our Troops” walk on Friday, followed by a nondenominational memorial service on Sunday in Memorial Church to commemorate the Harvard servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives to serve their country. The church bell will toll once for each Harvard student in the history of the university to have died while serving in the military.
As one of the oldest institutions in American, Harvard has had a long history of supporting our nation’s military. In fact, the day after George Washington was appointed by the Second Continental Congress as America’s first commander-in-chief, he first rallied and organized his army at Cambridge Common—a historic site still marked by a flag and cannon that Harvard students pass daily. Moreover, Harvard quartered George Washington’s troops in Massachusetts Hall, and the current university president’s home, Wadsworth House. Harvard’s affiliation with the military continued until 1969 when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to expel the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) from campus in protest of the Vietnam War. At present, no branch of the armed forces is allowed to have an office on campus.
While Harvard’s policy towards the U.S. military has become increasingly complex, issues such as ROTC recruitment, department of defense research grants, and support of foreign policy should not deter students from actively honoring our current and fallen troops. The events of “Support Our Troops” Week are not focused upon the foreign policy of President Bush, the role of ROTC on campus or support for the war in Iraq. The week was instead designed by both campus Democrats and Republicans to express tribute to our countrymen—many of whom are our age—who sacrifice their lives to serve.
Elise M. Stefanik ’06, a Crimson editorial editor, is a government concentrator in Winthrop House. She is vice-president of the Institute of Politics.
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