University of Virginia Cancels Traditional Veterans Day 21-Gun Salute Over 'Gun Violence' Concerns
Amid cries of outrage, a decade of tradition is ending at the University of Virginia this year as the college decided to cancel its Veterans Day 21-gun salute to veterans.
“I am very disillusioned, very upset, and very surprised that they would make such a decision,” veteran Jay Levine said, according to WHSV.
Levine, who went through the college’s ROTC program, said the 21-gun salute is an appropriate way to honor the nation’s veterans.
“Freedom isn’t free,” he said. “There’s a cost and that cost is born by the veterans and the families of those veterans.”
College President Jim Ryan posted a statement on Facebook explaining the college’s decision to end the salute, which follows a 24-hour vigil for veterans conducted by the school’s ROTC unit.
Ryan said canceling the salute had two purposes: “First, to minimize disruptions to classes, given that this event is located at the juncture of four primary academic buildings and is held at a time that classes are in session.”
Second, the college was “recognizing concerns related to firing weapons on the Grounds in light of gun violence that has happened across our nation, especially on school and university campuses.”
The Daily Progress, the newspaper that covers the Charlottesville, Virginia, community where the college is located, condemned the college’s decision.
“The decision sends an insulting message to veterans and other patriots,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
“It also, ironically, sends an unfortunate message about students: That they are too fragile, too delicate, too distractible to deal with the ‘interruption’ of the salute. That they are too insular, too wrapped up in their own worlds to comprehend and accept this longstanding practice. That they must be protected from the reality that exists outside academia.”
“The reality is that men and women have died, and others have suffered grievous injury, in order to ensure that students can freely study at this university and others, to ensure that faculty can freely teach. The reality is that this nation has a long and respected tradition of honoring veterans in public displays, including the 21-gun salute, the highest of honors. The reality is that UVa is out of step with many in this community, which it aspires to lead, by its decision to downplay the Veterans Day program,” the paper continued.
Columnist Todd Starnes also criticized the college’s decision in an Op-Ed for CBN.
“The notion that students might suffer some sort of disruption because the ROTC is honoring our veterans is repulsive,” he wrote. “The University of Virginia may think they are protecting their overly sensitive students, but in reality they are disrespecting our veterans.”
The college was also attacked on Twitter for its decision.
As a @UVA #UVA student veteran, thank you for marginalizing my community. That is a direct, unmitigated slap in the face to those of us who have served, and especially to those of us who have served and lost. I am deeply sorry that you decided to make this incorrect decision.
— Arthfach (@arthfach) November 10, 2019
Unfortunately again, I disagree with your decision. I dare say it would do all of your students well to have a moment to remember those that perished for their freedom. If it were not for them your classes may well have been empty!
— Toni Ann (@toniannblair) November 11, 2019
Ryan admitted in his message that “community responses have helped us to understand that many see the 21-gun salute as an important element of the Veterans Day ceremony at the University of Virginia.”
Although he said it was too late to change this year’s ceremony, “we will work with our ROTC officers and cadets to take a closer look at options for our Veterans Day events, including those that would enable us to re-introduce the 21-gun salute to the program.”
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