Letters to Editor

Doctoral candidate responds to column criticizing ROTC protesters

Recently, a group of Syracuse University students protested the presence of the ROTC on campus by staging a work-in at the cadets’ lounge. In his Sept. 12 Daily Orange opinion piece, Michael Stikkel claimed these protesters challenging militarism on campus “have forgotten” the attacks of 9/11 and the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers.

I wasn’t at the protest, but here’s what I haven’t forgotten: My mother’s parents, Benjamin Henry Bell and Dorothy May Bell, were soldiers. She was part of the occupation of Germany after World War II. He received a Purple Heart for service in Korea. Pictures of them from that time portray young people with a sense of dignity and purpose, full of life and moxie.

I haven’t forgotten that they met and fell in love at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

I haven’t forgotten the 1952 photograph that shows my grandparents together at the Fort Hood Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club. Glasses and beer bottles litter the table as Dorothy takes a drag from a cigar — her head tilted slightly in a confident gesture. Benjamin directs his gaze toward her with a look that says, “I dig a woman who smokes cigars.” His eyes and half-smile convey a mix of desire and respect.

I haven’t forgotten that they married, had children and loved their grandchildren.

I haven’t forgotten that, in their rural, West Texas town, she taught biology at the public high school and he worked at the county-owned hospital.

I haven’t forgotten that, at the end of long and full lives, they died within two weeks of each other.

I haven’t forgotten standing with my mother as we interned their ashes at the veterans’ cemetery in the city where they met.

I haven’t forgotten that the good life they built together in love was not guaranteed. Dorothy and Benjamin’s story didn’t have to happen. One well-lobbed hand grenade or a stray bullet, and the story could’ve been quite different.

I haven’t forgotten that the easy patriotism of platitudes makes for poor policy.

I haven’t forgotten that soldiers — those who must go where ordered — depend on those of us in civilian life to vigorously challenge and debate any military deployment so that troops are never unnecessarily sent into harm’s way.

I haven’t forgotten that supporting soldiers means working to bring them home and keep them here.

TJ Geiger II

Doctoral candidate in composition and cultural rhetoric

 

Top Stories

Remembrance Week 2014

From the shadows

This year, the Remembrance Scholars created silhouettes of the 35 SU students who died in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing and placed them throughout campus in locations where the victims would have most likely hung out. Read more »