Updated: Apr 19
In the midst of Belmont’s annual culture week, students gathered to discuss war and the experience of veterans on campus.
The HOPE Council hosted Tuesday’s conversation led by Belmont Vets along with the College Democrats and the College Republicans.
What started off as a panel primarily centered around the conflict in Ukraine and the media’s coverage of war progressed into a conversation about LGBTQ+ service members, mental health and the role politics play within the military.
Despite their differing perspectives, the students made an effort to remain civil during the entire discussion.
“I think it was a really good turnout. And with the Republicans and Democrats … having different perspectives was really important. So I really think it should be encouraged,” said Taylor Sanders, the moderator of the discussion and a representative of the HOPE Council.
Scott Banker, a veteran and vice president of the Belmont College Republicans was one of the leaders in the discussion and chimed in to offer insight about mental health.
“It’s something I struggled with individually; having these conversations with my girlfriend and my family and the ability to have these conversations. It’s just a different language — different lifestyle — and it’s hard to communicate,” he said.
Banker also brought forward a study that showed a tragic statistic: in the past 20 years, more than four times as many service members have been lost to suicide than have died in service.
Panelist Jacob Hicks, another veteran and president of the Bruin Vets, held some skepticism of how the conversation would go when he was first approached. He said he made it clear that he would only agree to participating if the goal of the event was to educate.
“The only way this could truly be educational is if everybody knew it’s not about attacking or having comebacks,” he said.
The other panelists clearly shared this sentiment. Claire Cole, the secretary for the College Democrats, spoke to the need for more events like this in the future.
“I actually learned a lot and many new perspectives on military life in general. So I thought it was really productive,” she said.
The military as a non-partisan force was another focal point of the discussion.
“The military doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with one party or the other,” Cole said. “It can be for every American. We can support them without bringing in our own biases.”
This article was written by Gus Sneh and Braden Simmons.