For war veterans at Harvard commemorating Veterans Day on Friday, the occasion may hold special significance in a year marked by reconciliation between the University and the armed forces.
Last spring Harvard decided to officially recognize the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly. Since the recognition, Faust has taken steps to repair Harvard’s relations with the military, including the establishment of an office for Naval ROTC.
Veterans and current members of the military in the Harvard community said that they plan to reflect on their service experience while hoping for improvements in the relationship between Harvard and the military.
“We have to disentangle politics from public service,” said Erik E. Malmstrom, who served in the Army for four years and is a student at the Business and Kennedy Schools. “The decision to put on a uniform is not necessarily a statement in support of the war.”
Malmstrom, who is co-president of Harvard veteran organization Crimson Serves, said that he hopes that University President Drew G. Faust’s efforts to encourage greater acceptance of the military will be continued.
Jacob S. Cusack, a Business School student and Marine Corps officer, said that he hopes that on 11/11/2011, the Harvard community will take a moment to express gratitude for those who have served.
Students should “take this day as a catalyst to do something for those who have sacrificed more than us, and as a reminder that we are still a country at war, despite the life we enjoy in a privileged bubble,” Cusack wrote in an email.
Michael L. Harrison, a student at the Kennedy School and a graduate of West Point, said that an increased military presence is important for the Harvard community. Exposure to military veterans is especially important for those who plan to go into government and may one day be responsible for deploying troops, he said.
Engineering professor and veteran Kevin “Kit” Parker, who chairs the ROTC implementation committee, said he hopes that the U.S. wars will soon come to an end.
“I want no more of America’s talent maimed and dead on the field of battle,” he wrote in an email from Korea.
Harvard has a long and storied history of military service.
Between 150 and 200 current Harvard students are veterans, according to an email from Thomas P, Reardon ’68, president of the Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization.
Harvard graduates have received more Medals of Honor—the highest distinction given by the military—than any school other than service academies.