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Columbia Missourian

Remembering our veterans, alive and dead

By Tom Warhover
May 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Go figure: A student-soldier is called up to active duty, spends a year serving his or her country, and returns to MU to find the welcome home involves a mess of paperwork and pleas to professors and officials before picking up an education again.

It’s enough to make my teeth rattle.

The issue is the topic of today’s cover story by Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington. She traces the journey of some students who were called to active duty and returned to active headaches. You can read for yourself and form your own opinions; mine follows:

I don’t like the idea that the federal government, in the form of the Department of Veterans Affairs, essentially says that higher education isn’t the federal government’s problem. At the university level, the rules that guide the game of higher education don’t allow for common sense. Students called to active duty should be given help, not barriers, to re-enrolling.

I admit to a bias here: soldiers and airmen and sailors deserve a little extra break. As a member of the university bureaucracy, I’ve heard all kinds of reasons from every brand of students who ask for extensions of one kind or another. Some are valid, and some students are at least creative. I figure putting yourself in harm’s way is the mother of all explanations.

Lindsay’s story falls, not coincidentally, on Memorial Day weekend. For all of you about to harangue me for confusing my holidays: I realize that Monday’s memorial is to our fallen veterans. A real hassle for military folk re-entering the university doesn’t begin to equate to any sacrifice by our war dead or their families. Still, I didn’t think it would be wise to hold this story until fall when we celebrate Veteran’s Day. Keeping our live military men and women in mind might help us remember our war dead.

To that point, I recommend the column on the Opinion page of Monday’s Missourian. Each year, I ask the staff to run the same story. It is a recounting of the death of a favorite captain during World War II, by the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Every year, I get chills when I read it.

In the most recent unpleasantness, the count is more than 3,429. Not close in body count to the original, official Memorial Day, which commemorated those who died in our bloodiest, most un-civil war. But measuring a person’s life by numbers never did add up.