Before we get too wrapped up in the important work of pushing for changes to our stupid, stupid gun laws, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves what the ready availability of deadly, military-grade weapons has gotten us: seventeen graves, seventeen grieving families, a high school whose name will now be associated with blood and pain and loss, and only secondarily with an environmental crusader. There’s absolutely important political work to be done, since it was the political work of the NRA and the Republican party that led to an environment where there are more guns than there are Americans. Here are four out of seventeen out of thirty-three thousand reminders a year of why we need to do something about guns:
Three of the students killed last Wednesday, Alaina Petty, 14, Martin Duque, 13, and Peter Wang, 15, were all members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Junior ROTC program. Peter Wang had planned on making a career of the military: His lifelong goal was to attend the Army’s military academy at West Point. Wang was wearing his JROTC uniform — and holding a door open for others to go through — when he was shot to death. To honor the slain JROTC kids, the Army Cadet Command awarded all three the JROTC Heroism Medal, awarded to the family of each at their funerals.
An online White House petition asking that Wang be given a military funeral with full honors received more than the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered by the White House; Florida Gov. Rick Scott directed the Florida National Guard to attend the funerals of all three kids.
In addition to the JROTC medal, Peter Wang was also granted postumous admittance to West Point, which named him a member of the US Military Academy’s class of 2025:
A statement from West Point said the posthumous appointment
was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man […] West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidates whose actions exemplified the tenets of duty, honor and country.
Peter Wang was buried yesterday wearing his JROTC uniform, with the Heroism Medal pinned to it; a Cadet Command spokesperson said a copy of the medal was also given to his family to remember him by. The criteria for awarding the medal specify it go to cadets who perform acts of bravery that are “so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances[.]” That fits, and you don’t have to be “pro-military” or a HOOAH type to tear up.
Cadet Pvt. Peter Wang https://t.co/UAflxVlqNb
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) February 20, 2018
Scott Beigel was a geography teacher at Stoneman Douglas. He died after unlocking his classroom to shelter students fleeing the attacker. Beigel had waved kids into his classroom, and after getting all the kids in one group inside, was getting ready to come inside and lock the door behind him when he was shot to death. One of his students, Kelsey Friend, said she believed the gunman hadn’t bothered looking into the room after seeing Beigel’s body by the door. In an interview on CNN, Friend said, “Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom.”
At his funeral Sunday, his fiancée, Gwen Gossler, said Beigel had told her, while they watched TV coverage of one of America’s many, many school shootings, how he wanted to be remembered if he ever died in a school shooting. Yes, of course, that’s something teachers think about. It’s something we all have to think about, thanks, NRA:
“Promise me if this ever happens to me, you will tell them the truth—tell them what a jerk I am, don’t talk about the hero stuff,” Gossler said [….] “OK, Scott, I did what you asked. Now I can tell the truth. You are an amazingly special person. You are my first love and my soulmate.”
In addition to his teaching duties, Beigel coached Stoneman Douglas High’s cross country team, so Parkland, Florida, organized a run in his honor yesterday. In their story on the memorial event, CNN reports Beigel had also talked to his mother about school shootings; she said he’d get “intensely angry” at the media for focusing too much on the lives lost, and not on how senseless slaughters could actually be stopped.
So it sounds to us like if we really want to honor Scott Beigel, his coworkers, and the students who died a week ago, we have a hell of a lot of work to do.
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