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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

War awareness different for students


Friday, March 24, 2006

With the passing Saturday of the third anniversary of the War in Iraq, it appears more evident every day that the mission has yet to be accomplished.

Since that fateful day in March 2003 when President George W. Bush announced to the American public that troops were invading Iraq, more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers have died in the conflict. And of the 17,000 wounded American soldiers, nearly half are between the ages of 18–24.

While a significant number of college-age soldiers have been wounded or killed, several professors said students’ awareness about what is happening in the Middle East is nothing compared to that of those who were young adults during the Vietnam War.

Dick Connolly, professor of philosophy, believes that because students no longer have to fear the draft, they do not have the same emotional investment in the Iraq War. At that time, UE also had a significant number of Vietnam veterans who helped foster dialogue.

“I think it’s important for people to talk about,” he said. “I think more and more people on campus and around the country have become disillusioned with the war.”

When the Iraq War began, Michael Carson, professor of English, said some students were scared the draft would be reinstated and therefore paid more attention to what was happening. This was similar to what he saw on campus when he arrived in 1969.

“Students paid a whole lot of attention to it because they were afraid of getting drafted,” he said. “Students were afraid of going to war.”

Edwin Lacy, professor of music, attributed students’ political awareness in the ‘60s and ‘70s to societal changes caused in part by the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

But even during the most tumultuous days of the Vietnam War, Carson said UE was docile compared to other institutions.

“UE wasn’t as highly politicized as compared to big state schools,” he said.

Lacy does not believe many students see the impact the Iraq War has on their lives.

“Unless you have a family member in Iraq, you pretty much are not directly affected by it,” he said.

While campus discussion of the war may not be up to par, senior Jonathan Graban, a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard who served in Iraq from 2003–04, thinks students talk about the war in private and believes most are up-to-date with the latest happenings.

“Our generation has done a fairly good job in keeping up with the war,” he said.

But Graban said there are some topics students need to understand. He said many are probably unaware of successes in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, including schools and power plants.

These achievements might be uninteresting, he said, but still are important steps in the United States reaching its goal in Iraq.

People also need to understand that most of the time soldiers are not engaged in combat, which is something most TV news shows do not report.

“If you watch FOX or CNN, you get the ESPN SportsCenter version of what’s going on there,” he said, adding that when soldiers are in combat, it is often similar to the heavy fighting people do see on TV.

Graban admits that unlike during the Vietnam War, students are not as vocal in discussing Iraq. He said such public discourse is not only appropriate, but also an essential part of being an American citizen.

“That’s extremely healthy, that’s what I fought for,” Graban said. “Use the freedoms soldiers are dying and fighting for. Otherwise they died in vain.”

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