A few months ago, I wrote about how the Texas A&M Aggies stood vigil outside a funeral for a veteran out of concern that there would be a protest from a group of religious zealots who think military men and women deserve to die. In that post, I also wrote about celebrating the Fourth of July at the US Consulate with the USMC detachment here. In a couple of weeks, I will attend the USMC ball that will honor the small group of Marines who serve in Mumbai. My father was USMC Reserves. My cousin Sean was USMC as well. Many of my college friends participated in the Air Force ROTC program to pay for an education that would have been unattainable otherwise.
So, it was with great sadness that I saw a post on Facebook about fans booing President Obama during the Clemson-Virginia Tech game. Booing is nothing new to college football. Even during nationally televised games, we used to shout, “FU FSU!” Much to the chagrin of those older and wiser than us. Booing a Democratic president at a largely Republican university is nothing new either. Young Republicans is one of the largest student groups on campus. What is new, however, is the timing of the booing. It occurred while Clemson ROTC students were taking their oaths of induction into the military. When I first read this story, I thought it was yet another figment of the Facebook imagination. Many seriously inaccurate stories appear on Facebook every day. I was sure this story was one of them. Surely, the students realize that the oath of induction is a sacred moment for those taking it. Surely, they realize that no matter who is elected a couple of Tuesdays from now that the members of our armed services must swear to follow that Commander-in-Chief. Surely, the college that was founded as a military college would remember those roots and show the deepest respect for that ceremony. Surely, this story was the imagination of some crazed Gamecock fan in Columbia. Surely, the people booing weren’t students, but some drunken outsiders who are not aware of the school’s history. Surely?
I have never been ashamed of my alma mater, until today. I spent six years of my life at Clemson and received two degrees in History. I did not need to stick around for those two extra years; I wanted to. Those six years were some of the best of my life. Until we lived in Texas, Clemson was the longest place I have ever lived anywhere. I am not a die-hard alumna. I have never attended games except while at school. I don’t donate large sums to fundraising campaigns. There are other alumni who do more of both those things. But, it still saddens me deeply that this place I called home for so long would so dishonor its history.
So, for those of you who have clearly not been paying attention, here are a few historical facts about Clemson’s military tradition (from the Military page of the website):
- 1893: Clemson was established as an all-male military college that taught agriculture.
- 1941 to 1945: Clemson provided the third largest group of Army officers behind only West Point and Texas A&M.
- 1955 to 1969: Though the Corps of Cadets was disbanded in 1955, ROTC was mandatory at Clemson until 1969.
- 1971: Clemson ROTC opened to women.
- 1996: Clemson established Military Heritage Plaza to honor those alumni who have served and died for their country.
- 2012: Clemson University students booed during military induction ceremony.
Is that how we want history to remember us? Surely not.