The mood inside Leigh Lounge was somber on Friday as the names of more than 6,300 men and women who lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were read aloud to commemorate Veterans Day.
With every name read, the reality of war hung heavier in the room. Suddenly war felt more personal, more human, as each life lost was felt by all. During the day-long event, hundreds of people filtered through; taking photos, reading names or just observing and honoring. The people, mostly Bozeman community members, appeared to come from all backgrounds. Yet there was one demographic whose presence was sorely lacking: the MSU student population.
Event organizers estimate that only 20 to 30 students attended Friday’s event. Many of those who did stayed for only a moment or just poked their heads in the doorway.
We found the students’ absence shocking. We believed, perhaps naively, that many students would take some time out of their day off to honor our country’s veterans, or at least do something that required a little more effort than a Facebook post.
There is little doubt that students knew the event was going on. It was advertised extensively with posters across campus, table-tents in dining halls and the SUB and emails. It seems the only reason for the students’ absence was apathy either towards the cause, or the effort of actually attending.
So where was the student population? A walk through campus revealed hundreds of students racing around toting bandanas and Nerf guns. It appeared participating in Humans vs. Zombies was the only thing on their minds, and the real reason for the holiday was lost along with a general sense of dignity and respect.
It is a terrible tragedy of our generation that more of us are willing to partake in a mock war than honor those who have sacrificed their lives in the real thing.