The recent events in the U.S. and overseas have provoked a variety of responses from Lawrence campus groups. However, according to Tim Schmidt, chairman of the Lawrence University College Republicans, “little has been said about our troops sent overseas, our reservists put on alert, and our law enforcement officers working feverishly to ensure our safety.” On Veterans Day, at a rally hosted by LUCR, five members of the community provided their responses to the war in Afghanistan.In front of a small crowd on a cold Sunday afternoon in the Wriston amphitheater, Schmidt introduced the five speakers one by one. The first to speak was Steve Conto, commander of the Appleton division of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a Gulf War veteran. Conto urged people to let the war serve as a reminder of the service veterans have given in the past and are giving right now in Afghanistan, and of the debt people owe to the veterans for the cost of their service.
“Open your minds; try to understand their struggles,” Conto said, and asked that veterans be hired, fed, and sheltered, that schools be opened up for them to share their experiences, that they be given newspaper columns, and that people try to help in other ways.
Next to speak was John Gillespie, who ran for the U.S. Senate last year and served as a captain in the U.S. Army. After telling the stories of outstanding veterans throughout American history, he noted that during his campaign he was met with apathy. In response to this, he began a series of “Minuteman Messages” that ran on the radio stations. Since the events of Sept. 11, these messages have become extremely popular, and are currently running on 149 stations.
The messages tell the stories of veterans who distinguished themselves in battle. Following Gillespie, Terry McCormick, an assemblywoman from Appleton, spoke about the assembly’s responses to the war, which include veterans’ benefits and a removal of potential tax penalties for those currently overseas.
The fourth speaker, Steve Wieckert, reiterated the need for people to support the men and women overseas. He mentioned that Osama bin Laden has made a mistake in terrorizing the U.S. and quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said, “American nature has a tremendous fury of an aroused democracy.” Last to the podium, Tim Hanna, mayor of Appleton, stated that America had united behind freedom. “Freedom is America’s heart,” he said, adding that “freedom is never free.” Hanna believes that the lesson of these events can be summed up as “problems abroad, if left unattended, will all too often come home to America.” He ended his remarks by saying that fighting for what is right is not a sacrifice because it is upholding the greater virtue of freedom. Finally, to return to the occasion of Veterans Day, he asked that people remember the 26 million living veterans as well as the MIAs.