A Hero Speaks At Columbia University
Early in the week, I saw a post called "Hero's Welcome" by Annie Karni, on The New York Post's website. Here's some of it:
"Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus.
"'Racist!' some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran. Maschek, 28, had bravely stepped up to the mike Tuesday at the meeting to issue an impassioned challenge to fellow students on their perceptions of the military. 'It doesn't matter how you feel about the war. It doesn't matter how you feel about fighting,' said Maschek. 'There are bad men out there plotting to kill you.'
"Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds."
There's a stench of educational decay to this story and the collapse of the quaint old notion that our colleges and universities are vessels for the free flow and exchange of ideas.
What type of breeding ground is it which fosters our youth to feel safe flinging hateful insult at a soldier who has come perilously close to death, so that they might grow up safe and free?
It's bad enough that civil discourse has disintegrated to the point that many American adults now toss the racist label around like a beach ball, but what does it say about the parents, our schools, and in particular, our college campuses, that out of the mouths of babes now comes racial insult before intelligent questioning of a speaker who simply has a first hand account to offer?
Do these students think Maschek woke up one morning and decided to attack Iraq on his own? They do realize, that as an enlisted soldier, he was sent to war by his president and Congress? Or, is it that these underripe and nuanced intellectuals just hate soldiers in general because someone indoctrinated them to think this way?
It seems fair to ask, since it was Columbia University that thought it appropriate to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to its lecterns in 2007.
In college, I took a yearlong survey of the Vietnam War. It's no secret that our involvement in Southeast Asia was not exceedingly popular. Soldiers returning from combat were often met by ridicule and chant-ing protesters calling them all sorts of nasty names.
As part of the course, there were many invited guest speakers, including three officers from the military. One was an Air Force pilot. He said the closest he ever got to action was from the ungodly altitudes that his plane flew. He never saw the enemy he dropped his bombs on. Relentless reminders about what he had been ordered to do were painfully etched and grooved in the lines of his face.
Another was an Army infantryman like Anthony Maschek, and the third speaker was from the Navy.
We didn't utter a peep as these men spoke. We sat in awe listening to the first-hand accounts from these soldiers who had performed their duties with honor and dignity. We had our views, no doubt, but we just asked our polite, if not leading, questions during the Q&A sessions.
On Thursday, Maschek, who lost a leg in combat, sat down for a televised interview. When asked how he felt about the heckling from Columbia students, he said, "It's just a small group of people that were heckling. They have the right of their opinion. Personally, I fought for that right and I support that right of their opinion."
Words begin to fail that there could be such grace from someone who has sacrificed so much for those who have done so little.
I wonder if any of the "students" who heckled Anthony Maschek have had a chance to visit the Washington war memorials lately? Short of, and until the next attack succeeds on our soil, this might be a good place to start learning about respect for those who protect and revere their right to call this war hero a racist.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story