Officials at the University of Virginia are facing backlash after announcing a cancellation of the 21-gun salute during Veterans Day ceremonies.
The long-running tradition of honoring veterans with the salute as part of a 24-hour vigil will not take place this year.
University President Jim Ryan issued a statement explaining the decision amid growing outrage from veterans and members of the UVA community.
“Related to this year’s ceremony, the Provost’s Office and Col. Michael Hough, commanding officer of UVA’s Air Force ROTC detachment, worked closely together in making the decision to eliminate the 21-gun salute for two reasons: 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,” Ryan wrote on social media. “And second, 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.”
Ryan asserted the salute is “not required,” but claims school officials 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.”
In response to concerns about the cancellation of the 21-gun salute portion of the Veterans Day ceremony, I thought it might be useful to pass along some background on how we reached the decision: https://t.co/k7vJhiicX0
— Jim Ryan (@presjimryan) November 9, 2019
Popular responses to Ryan on Twitter offer scathing rebukes.
“As a UVA student veteran, thank you for marginalizing my community,” one user wrote. “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.”
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
Another user replied, “How ‘we’ reached the decision? The buck stops with you. Score one for the snowflakes.”
How “we” reached the decision? The buck stops with you. Score one for the snowflakes.
— Dwight Carlisle (@DwightCarlisle1) November 10, 2019
Jay Levine, a graduate of the UVA ROTC program, says he is working to bring more attention to the issue among fellow veterans, whom he hopes will join him in speaking out against the move.
“I am very disillusioned, very upset, and very surprised that they would make such a decision,” Levine told WHSV.
“Freedom isn’t free. There’s a cost and that cost is born by the veterans and the families of those veterans.”
An op-ed published in The Daily Progress blasts the university for sending 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.”
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Dan Lyman: Follow @CitizenAnalyst