Stadium should honor service

Leaders ought to reserve naming rights to any publicly funded stadium for recognizing military service.

As a former high school football coach, a University of Minnesota law student, and a supporter of a strong University system, I hope that the bipartisan support for a new Gophers Football Stadium results in some forward progress soon. University Athletic Director Joel Maturi is correct when he says that a new stadium is the right thing to do. As an adviser to the largest nonpartisan advocacy group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, I also hope that in the event of another special session the state legislature sees fit to recognize the sacrifices of our warriors and their families who continue to make disproportionate sacrifices in Iraq and in the broader war on terrorism. Honoring their service is also the right thing to do.

State leaders from both sides of the aisle should call for a naming amendment to any public funding bill for the stadium, so that when the Gophers rally on the gridiron, they do so under a name recognizing the important civic duty of military service. “Soldier’s Field,” “War Memorial Stadium,” or “Veteran’s Field” would be an apt addition to TCF Bank’s moniker. To do so would be a fitting reminder to Minnesotans of the ongoing cost of war in Iraq and elsewhere. It could also be supported by those who have been critical of U.S. handling of the war thus far.

As I said in “Protest the war, not the warriors,” a Daily opinion piece on Jan. 24: “When (our troops) begin their service they swear to support and defend the Constitution. There is no language in any enlisted soldier’s or officer’s oath pledging allegiance to any faction, political party, ideology or individual.”

Reinforcing my words, James Haugerud, a U.S. Marine currently serving in Ar Ramadi, Iraq recently wrote home to Minnesota that it boosts his morale to see Americans free to protest the war. He said, “Public debate and discussion are vital to the health of a democracy. It is a good thing when I see Americans exercising their right of freedom of speech. Seeing people exercise freedoms that many in other countries don’t have is something that we should all be thankful for – whether you agree with what is being said or not. Semper Fidelis!”

Young men and women who choose to don the uniform of the United States today do so knowing full well that chances are good they will end up bearing the weight of actually fighting the war on terrorism. They know that they will face hardships upon returning from deployments and possibly combat. They know that whether they personally agree with it or not, they must accomplish any mission handed them by elected representatives, with whatever tools they are given by their civilian leadership, and based on any justification accepted by the American public. They are, by definition, heroes.

The recent call-up of more than 2,000 Minnesota National Guardsmen likely to serve more than a year in Iraq is indicative of increasing reliance on volunteers to stand up and be counted for overseas duty. We should honor their service with a lasting reminder that could endure into the next century.

Regardless of whether we as individuals support or oppose the handling of the war, we all need to support our troops and show our gratitude for their service. An amendment appropriately naming the Gophers football stadium to honor those who serve and make sacrifices for all of us would be a great way to put the legislature to work for common cause after the debacle of this summer’s state government shutdown. I imagine that it could be the next vote brought to the floor with bipartisan sponsorship and get the house and senate marching together again.

As community members of the University of Minnesota we could get this started by uniting to voice a positive demand for action based on shared American values, as opposed to local partisan ideology and tired rhetoric from both sides regarding the war.

Andrew Borene is a University law student and former U.S Marine intelligence officer. Please send comments to [email protected]