Edwin Portugal: Flags Down at Brown


Every year, Brown University holds a ceremony on Veterans Day to honor past, present, and future student veterans. For the ceremony, student volunteers put up hundreds of American flags along the Main Green. This year, with recent protests around the 2016 election happening in Providence, some students vandalized and destroyed the flags. One student who helped organize the memorial, Nicky Strada, witnessed students vandalize the flag and took to Facebook to express his discontent:

“Today was a sad day. Hundreds of flags were set up on the main green of Brown University by 2 veterans in honor of Veterans Day tomorrow, and when I got out of class, people had snapped them, ripped them, and threw them aside. I spent 1.5 hours outside taping them back together and putting all of them back in the ground, with a few confrontations.” Strada recounted.

He later noted that “one person actually stomped on and snapped all of the ones I put back and when I asked her to stop, and explained that they were for Veterans Day, she said ‘I don’t care about that.’”

The next morning, several students replaced the American flags along campus and placed signs indicating that these flags were placed to honor the memories of veterans. Yet students still tore down the flags. However, student volunteers quickly responded by repairing and replacing broken flags.

Monday, student veterans wrote to the Brown Daily Herald to express their opinions. Air Force veteran Tristan Hood, class of 2017, wrote:

I heard some students say that they destroyed these flags because they “have no respect for our country,” and veterans are “blind followers trained to kill and enslave people.” That people would say this is beyond me. Perhaps the best comment I heard was a student who told me service members were “too stupid to go to college.” Not only is the last statement ignorant, but it is completely false. There are 12 undergraduate veterans at Brown, and many more in the Graduate School and Alpert Medical School. Apparently this sort of hostile environment is one some Brown students want to foster.

Hood, however, ended his op-ed on a positive note, reminding readers:

Veterans Day is supposed to be a day of respect. Whether or not you respect the president is one thing, but we live in a country protected by volunteers. These volunteers are not politicians. They do not fight for the Republicans, for the Democrats, for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or President-Elect Donald Trump. They fight for the American public. They are comprised of every race, ethnicity, sexuality and affiliation. As such, they deserve to be treated with respect for their service and sacrifice, not belittled and attacked.

What happened at Brown’s campus during Veteran’s Day is a blatantly disrespectful to all veterans, especially those who study on campus. Yet, the respectful conduct of student volunteers provides a silver lining. Even on a campus like Brown, there are still some students who support the numerous sacrifices that the men and women of our armed services make to defend this country.


Veteran Michael Zaskey replaces a flag.


Signage explaining the purpose of the flags.