A few weeks ago a young man named Joseph Scott in Modesto, California was wearing the uniform of an Airborne Ranger on the campus of Delta College. Scott is not an active servicemember or a veteran, and he was confronted by veterans who were very displeased to see a civilian wearing the uniform of a soldier. The veterans confronted Scott and commenced in publicly berating him and even threatening him for wearing the uniform. Eventually, the Delta College police got involved and arrested one of the veterans for disturbing the peace and making threats. As the issue continued to escalate, the Delta College Police received threats from anonymous callers for allowing Scott to wear the uniform and arresting the veteran instead.
Joseph Scott comes from a long line of military servicemembers. He has close relatives that served in both World Wars and the Vietnam war and has always hoped to join the military. At age 17, having not been able to graduate high school, Scott took the ASVAB and failed, and so was unable to join. Scott has since taken the test again and again failed. When Scott was 3 years old, he suffered a severe event in his life and has had post-traumatic stress disorder since then. Scott had a difficult time in high school, took special education classes, and was unable to graduate. Passing the ASVAB is the only thing that stands in Scott’s way to join the military, him having always wanted to be in the military.
Scott originally acquired the uniform through a recruiter at the college who gave him fresh hope for being able to join up. Ultimately, Scott was not able to join up, but by then he had already been cleared to purchase a uniform and had done so. Scott originally wore the uniform in an effort to pay tribute to his loved ones who had served and all those who were serving in the military and didn’t intend any harm. This is what he has come out and said in a public apology given in an interview with ABC. “I was just supporting my cousins and my family in the military. And to those who I upset and made mad, I do apologize,” Scott said.
While the apology seemed sincere and Scott’s history suggests that his intentions were only to honor those who were serving, it is understandable that many passionate veterans and patriots may be slow to forgive. After all, for those who have worn the uniform and those who wear it now, it bears a very special significance. Someone who wears the uniform of the United States Armed Services is a cut above, worthy of special attention. It is someone who has sacrificed everything that their country has asked so far and will continue to sacrifice whatever their country requires of them. It is someone who knows what it is like to wonder if you will die the next day and knows how to push down the panic and chaos of battle with years of training and self-discipline. Wearing the uniform is a privilege that only those who bear the responsibility of protecting the nation deserve to enjoy.
I’m sure that if Scott had known how so many people would feel about his wearing the uniform though he is not a servicemember, he would never have done it. Perhaps, if the veterans that had confronted him had been able to keep calm enough to look beyond the obvious and help this boy understand why his actions were inappropriate, Scott would be better off and there would not have been this controversy and negative feelings on both sides of the debate. Scott practically hero-worships those who have served or are serving in the military and to be publicly berated and even threatened by those who he thought he was honoring is a devastating thing.
There are two very real, very valid, opposing viewpoints on this issue, and regardless of how we feel about it, we must be willing to see it from another perspective and understand why the other side feels the way they do. We’ll find that as we truly listen to why others feel the way they do and take the time to explain ourselves clearly without getting defensive, we actually agree on most things.