For at least a decade, the ROTC on the campus of the University of Virginia has held a 24-hour vigil that ends on veteran’s day, honoring our veterans. At the close of the vigil, the group honors veterans with a 21-gun salute. That is, until this year.
University President Jim Ryan issued a statement, which also appears on his Facebook page, about cancelling the 21-gun salute:
Related to this year’s ceremony, the Provost’s Office and Col. Michael Hough, commanding officer of UVA’s Air Force ROTC detachment, worked closely together in making the decision to eliminate the 21-gun salute for two reasons: first, to minimize disruptions to classes, given that this event is located at the juncture of four primary academic buildings and is held at a time that classes are in session; and second, recognizing concerns related to firing weapons on the Grounds in light of gun violence that has happened across our nation, especially on school and university campuses.
Ryan’s reasoning is humorous, given the history of gun salutes. They originated in the 14th century to signify that one’s weapons, which only held one shot, were inoperable. It was a sign of honor. This would be in keeping with remembering recent gun violence, as the goal is to show the weapons no longer funtion.
Apparently there was quite a backlash, which led Ryan to issue another statement:
“[C]ommunity responses have helped us to understand that many see the 21-gun salute as an important element of the Veterans Day ceremony at the University of Virginia. Given that the plans are already in place for this year, we will follow the event organizers’ recommendation to proceed without the 21-gun salute in our Veterans Day Ceremony. Following this year’s ceremony, however, we will work with our ROTC officers and cadets to take a closer look at options for our Veterans Day events, including those that would enable us to re-introduce the 21-gun salute to the program.”