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
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