Virtues of War – Story of War 1

In the first graded section of this course, we talked about virtue ethics as it has evolved from heroic societies of Homer, the democratic city-state of Athens, the senatorial empire of Rome, and the chivalric ideals of Medieval Europe.  Helping us along the way has been Alasdair MacIntyre and Hilde Lindemann, whose philosophies emphasize the importance of character and narrative in the moral formation of human persons. Our focus throughout has been on military personnel, namely the way in which the dominant narrative has been dangerously dualistic; research from veteran service organization GotYour6 helped us see how both veneration and vilification both act to marginalize military communities.

The second graded section forced us to look at the role of drama in forming individual and collective identity and perception. In fact, Robert Meagher’s interpretation of Herakles Furens provided the lens through which narrative polarization is seen for the destructive force that it is, the half-blood hero we know as Hercules belonged to neither the divine pantheon nor the human community. Herakles is a liminal figure, and, as a prototype of the warrior class in western literature, he shows us that the effect of placing veterans upon pedestals is, in effect, the same marginalization as if we subordinate their humanity as monsters.

It is no coincidence that it is a combat veteran, Euripides, who revised and augmented the dominant narrative by troubling the mythic qualities of the Hero. It should not surprise us that contemporary veterans likewise often violate the expectations of a society increasingly insulated from the reality of war: York and Remarque in WWI; Murphy and Doss in WWII; Kovic and Moore in Vietnam; Swofford and Kyle in Iraq. As individuals with direct experiential knowledge, what Aristotle (And Aquinas) would call practical intellectual virtue, modern liberal societies should promote their perspective over and above those without military or combat experience.

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Damaged Identities create two equally destructive forces

But history suggests that is not the case, and their autobiographies do not match the popularity of feature films based thereupon, an art form we’ve seen ignore, alter, or fabricate elements of the martial story in pursuit of interests rarely aligned with those of the veterans themselves or of empirical notions of “truth.” The actual lives of veterans sometimes interfere with and challenge the story modern societies want to tell about them. This is why virtue ethics is so important, because the circular momentum of dominant narratives creates what Lindemann calls damaged identities. Society desires and actively seeks out soldier stories, but on terms detached from the embodied reality in which they are embedded. Stories pulled into this self-referential echo chamber create unrealistic and ideologically driven characters by which doom future generations to fail; the soldiers themselves face the battlefield woefully unprepared for the moral density of actual combat, while civilians lack the moral backdrop by which to recognize their participation in the same.

For the last few weeks, we’ve looked at the story of soldiers and veterans, identifying the deep dissonance between soldiers and the society that sends them to, and receives them back from, war. I hope that we have seen that the military-civilian gap is a moral problem which universalizes pre-determined ideological assumptions; progressives expect soldiers to self-flagellate as damaged monsters or baby killers, while conservatives expect soldiers to reinforce a self-congratulatory triumphalism as heroic victors (at best) or dark knights at worst. So what about war itself, does war have a story that has become detached from reality in similar fashion?

If you asked a typical political scientist, since this course is being offered through that discipline, they will give you a particular story of war. They will likely drop the names of a few dead white dudes, like Machiavelli, Hobbes, or Clausewitz. If they’re really cosmopolitan and politically correct, they might drop Sun Tzu. These names dominate in part because of their writings, which are predominantly deal with military strategy. If the winners write history, then it makes sense that the story of war, or its modern account, revolves around a consequentialist foundation. The question of war is a question of winning.

But what if the story itself carries moral significance, and the final effect or telos of war is not to win, but to fight for our values, our ideals? What if survival is not a virtue, but justice and humanity are? At the very least, these questions force us out of a strict consequentialist ethical framework.

We will tackle these questions on Thursday, but for now, let’s expand on this type of story just a bit. The story of war I want to discuss today may possibly swing us from consequentialism to deontology, a rules-based model, insofar as we will be discussing the western laws of warfare, But a close look reveals a virtue (or at least morality) based framework, one which asks ‘what kind of a polis are we, such that we deem some goods worthy of defending with force?’

34149959695_9cedc8e341_oHugo Grotius, whom you have read about for today’s lesson, provides a helpful bridge between the Medieval period’s chivalric ideal and the emerging modern liberal enlightened era. Historically situated between the two, he was a Dutch theologian who would have been aware of Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513) and whose own major work predated Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651). De jure belli ac pacis, or On the Law of War and Peace, was a Latin work published in Paris in 1625. Its language and location suggests a religious background and a cosmopolitan intent. Latin institutions in France were usually catholic, and Grotius was one of a growing number of Christian intellectuals engaging with the wider secular world post-reformation.

I want to be clear that I am not privileging Christian perspectives so much as I am trying to be honest about the historical reality of the western world as it made its way out from under the thumb of the Holy Roman Empire. The close link between Catholicism and martial ethics is disclosed on your other reading for today, from James Gaffney, writing in a Catholic academic journal. The way political scientists and politicians think about war in our world centers on its justification. They want to win, sure, but they also don’t want to feel bad while “making the other poor, dumb bastard the chance to die for [their] country” while doing so… So the story of war we usually inherit is one which is concerned with justifying war morally. Rather than a story, it is usually called a theory or a tradition, one known simply as “Just War.”

Back of the Bus

I recently posted a blog after I learned that it was a paratrooper from my old unit at Bragg who was the student veteran that killed himself not long before I arrived at Duke University. Alexander Ney and I were both in 2-319 Airborne Field Artillery together in 2002. I left the unit ten days before they were locked down to go to Kuwait and become the OIF initial invasion force. My new unit, 1-14 Infantry Regiment, replaced them in Northern Iraq in January 2004.

In the week or so following that blog, I’ve received a number of responses from fellow veterans at Duke. I’ve asked several if I can share their reflections so that our stories do not remain hidden.

img_4506I’ve been given permission to share the following reflection from a former Duke military student with whom I’ve worked on a few occasions. This person has asked to remove all identifying features, but is currently an alumnus after having completed a degree at Duke.

They write:

I was and continue to be appalled by the lack of care, support, and welcome that Duke provides its veterans. They gladly will take our [sic] money, but would prefer to keep us in the back of the bus, as it were.

The analogy is likely to be a bit jarring for many. I will say that this person is not African American, but what that community shares with veterans is designation as a federally protected population. Veterans per se are not protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but ten years after that was passed, a much lesser known act did pass congress.

The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment & Assistance Act (VEVRAA) became law in 1974, providing federal nondiscrimination protection to veterans. This applies mostly to employment, but a series of revisions, the latest being in 2013, pushed many individual institutions to extend protections to educational and other programs as well. Any private institutions or contractors receiving at least $100,000 in federal funds are also subject to VEVRAA. Duke University is one such contractor.

I hope the metaphor is not stretched too far, as there is much overlap between veterans and the fight for civil rights by the African American community in particular. The recent Equal Justice Initiative report, “Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans,” gives many tragic examples of black WWI & WWII veterans providing a crucial impetus for the emerging struggle for racial equality.

BookerSpicelyWatermarkIt is a material reality that black veterans were pushed to the back of buses, including PVT Booker T. Spicely right here in Durham, NC. It is debatable if his veteran status was a primary factor in his murder at he hands of the white bus driver, but it was certainly a contributing factor, as the report repeatedly claims that black veterans were particularly targeted due to the challenge their venerated service posed to the lie of racial hierarchy and white supremacy.

Veterans both white and black remain a marginalized community. We are not forced to sit in the back of buses, but we are effectively forced to “shut the fuck up and drive on” when our stories are pushed aside to be retold and repackaged in ways that give society easy, black and white answers to the nuance of military service. This silences the complex reality of armed service, forcing our stories to recede so that the stories non-veterans tell about war and service get more attention, promotion, and reward.

Don’t believe me? My class, The Virtues of War, outlines exactly that history of narrative degradation. Forcing people to sit in the back of public transportation isn’t the only way to degrade, demean, and marginalize a social group. As this person articulated, some institutions feel threatened by the diverse and sometimes challenging voice of the military community. Too often, it is easy to assume that the military is monolithic, that it is either only good or bad, that veterans are either only heroes or “damaged.” But this pushes some voices, equally important veteran voices, to the margins so that the safe, concurring voices look like the only voices, or the only reasonable voices.

Sermon: Church of Reconciliation

Grace to you and peace from your brothers and sisters in Durham, where I join you from Saint Josephs Episcopal Church, and greetings from your humble servants in Centurions Guild, an ecumenical community of soldiers, veterans, and civilians wrestling between Christian faith, armed service, and national identity, for whom I speak as Executive Officer.

I have come to this beautiful house of worship at the invitation of Pastor Mark, who has invited me here as part of your fourth Peace Affirmation, that I might help you to “count the costs of war… cultivate moral imagination and discern God’s redemptive work in history.” Mine won’t be an Eastertide message, unfortuneatly. We’re gonna wander back to Holy Saturday for a bit…

~

Nine years ago this month, I rocked back and forth in the crypt of the Washington National Cathedral, tears tumbling awkwardly down my cheeks, my stomach in knots, hands wringing what was left of a speech I was to give before the New York Avenue Presbyterian church. My heart lay in pieces at the foot of a mosaic that spoke to me from beyond time and space.

Two roman soldiers were reclining at an open tomb, Jesus hovering above them with arms out-stretched. Before the mosaic was a small candelabra, a few flames flicking soft light upon Christ’s gentle features, playing devilish tricks with the faces of the two figures with whom I would most identify. You see, I spent the good part of a decade wearing another imperial uniform. From February 2000 to November 2006, I served on active duty as a forward observer for the artillery. I knew not what I did until after a 2004 deployment to Iraq. Were it not for those six years serving alongside other soldiers, what I heard from that mosaic would have been a far easier pill to swallow.

I found myself in in the belly of the beast for the same reasons I find myself here today – I was invited to share the living story of Christian soldiers to a listening Church. Earlier in the day I had read the haunting words of a friend who has since died as a result of his own service. Joshua Casteel had deployed at the very same time as I did; I as part of a quick reaction force deployable all over Iraq and he as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison. His words were bitter upon my lips, for he had recognized evil for more quickly than I had. I read an excerpt of his writings before over three thousand Christians in our nations capital, describing how it took just one mission outside the wire, after he realized he had involuntarily pointed a loaded rifle at three young boys, to see sin crouching at his door. He mastered the devil that day.

I was in Iraq for 389 days. As a member of an infantry platoon, I went on exponentially more missions than Joshua did as an interrogator. Wandering the Mesopotamian wilderness like Cain before me, my heart hardened in the desert heat like the mud bricks I watched cure in the Iraqi sun.

After reading Joshua’s confession from the pulpit of the National Cathedral, with my own hidden behind unspoken words that congregation would never hear, I fled the spotlight and quickly found myself buried in the crypt beside that martial mosaic. Kneeling to pray, tears began to flow freely, fixating as I was on the resurrected Christ. The saline spheres were not born in sadness, but anger. I raged at the soldiers I saw, the soldier I saw in myself, the hammer that saw nothing but nails.

Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me

I couldn’t tell whether the words sprang from my heart or my head, or if they were even mine. The least of us are certainly widows and orphans, the victims of war, not its perpetrators. Before I could make sense of what I’d heard, another voice, nearer my own, took shape…

“Even these, who struck his face and cast lots for his clothes?”

Yes

All the breath in my lungs rushed out, fleeing the wickedness holding my heart hostage. Every day in war, I added a mud brick to the wall I built around my heart to protect it from the crushing weight of the guilt it was accumulating in the wilderness. Once more, words took form somewhere in my soul;

“Even these, who flogged him?

Yes.

Safe there in its cage, my soul was protected, pure, right. A third time, the Word forced his way in;

“Even these, who pierced Your very heart?”

Yes. 

Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

The cost of war is hard to calculate, much less quantify, as though, like commerce, everything has a price. Some things cannot be measured. We can’t count the costs of war any more than we can count bodies, as though we can know the worth of even a single human life. I learned that the hard way. That night in DC, I was called by God. I didn’t know it at the time; I didn’t even know it when I wrote my first book, Reborn on the Fourth of July, and you wont find any reference to vocation in the pages that I describe that event, but that night I was commissioned by God.

I read the words of another soldier, a friend whose death taught me the importance of taking a long view of Church history and redemption. Joshua died while I was on my book tour actually; just under a year after he was supposed to come to Duke for the 2011 After the Yellow Ribbon Conference. We dedicated that conference to him, a conference he would be proud of because we managed to get a lot of people in the room who otherwise would not make for polite company. To the institution where pacifism rules, we managed to get the ranking ethicist from West Point to give our keynote, a presentation that would make pacifists blush. His title captures his point well; The Beauty and Tragedy of a Combat Deployment.” He recently brushed the dust off his talk as an entry for “Ponder Christian Soldiers,” the Guild’s blog series with Christianity Today. With a more restrictive word count, he distilled his point even further; “War is Hell, But it Can Be Heaven.”

Do I sense an elevated collective heart rate…?

I mention this important point, that war is far more complex than most civilians fathom, because it is necessary if we are to actually draw upon not just pacifism and just peace, but just war and patriotism as well. The fourth affirmation is of utmost importance, but it is my experience that most pacifists do not do the critical work of engaging with their adversaries as they should. Too often, we retreat to our comfort zone, we group up with like minded people and start lobbing stones over the wall we build around the hearts of our ideological campgrounds.

One Veterans Day not too long ago, I was messaging friends on Twitter about sharing the #TenSaintsTenDays blog series. In the ten days between All Saints and Veterans Day, I was profiling a soldier-saint who blurs the categorization we sometimes overlay onto Christian soldiers; too often, Christian soldiers’ stories get co-opted to make a point for or against war, as though that sums up the meaning of their lives and service.

One friend, an activist whose work included nonviolent struggles, told me privately that reading their lives was “challenging,” and that he was concerned about receiving “a LOT of pushback” for discussing the merits of just-war traditions.

I reminded him that a theologian he and I both admire attracted numerous ROTC cadets to his classes on pacifism and nonviolence. This theologian managed to communicate effectively across political divides to cultivate conversation despite entrenched disagreements, setting what I thought was an important example to follow. In response, my friend suggested that I had been disqualified from the pacifist community and that I needed to connect ROTC types with nonviolent activists like him.

In Rome this very weekend, a conference is being convened by Catholic pacifists, one of the stated goals of which is “the explicit rejection of just war.” I would be more sympathetic had they invited contrasting voices or considered ways in which they had misrepresented the tradition by assuming the worst about war. It’s easy to be wrong when we surround ourselves with people who vehemently disagree with us. It’s harder to learn the habits of of our faith, of intellectual enemy love and long suffering. Can you imagine how hard it must be to sit down with someone who has 30 good reasons to betray you? Would we really make breakfast for the people who left us hanging to die?

“Follow me” the Word returns.

Cultivating moral imagination requires some stretching, it demands we depart our moral comfort zone. We may find that the things we once thought were repulsive actually have profound value. Insofar as nonviolent struggles, war, and pacifism involve the question of killing, addressing these important topics is a fools errand if it does not involve the voices of those doing the killing. When we are willing, able, and ready to sit down in the presence of our enemies, we may find that we are breathing as much threats and murder as they are, that the walls we’ve built around our own hearts need to fall first. It’s always hardest to be the first to drop the stones in your hand. Saul’s story reminds me that it’s even harder to hand back all the coats to those who don’t.

I was a pacifist for a long time, but I don’t know what to call myself lately. Nonviolent activists have called me a baby-killer, an orthodox priest suggested that I only went to war out of bloodlust, a prestigious theologian has suggested I be referred to as a murderer. Rarely ever are these accusations made about me directly, but I cannot escape being an member of the martial fraternity. There is no such thing as a “former veteran.” I thought I was dropping the stone from my hand when I refused to carry my weapon, I thought I was doing the right thing. But then I learned that I had merely changed sides, that fellow pacifists were just on the other side aiming their rhetorical weapons right back across a line drawn in the sand.

Maybe, that time when Jesus drew in the sand to protect a sinner, he wasn’t fashioning a line to determine sides, but an arrow pointing at the messiah, the only one who could save us from all this binary thinking.

Discerning God’s redemptive work in history forces us to think much more deeply about war and peace, and I pray that this church is up to the task. It will require that we wrestle with God and with those people whose faith does not look exactly like our own. Reading the story of salvation of history, we will encounter soldier saints and patriot pacifists who force us to expand the way we think about the question of killing. When the saints come marching in, we’ll find in their number not just the military martyrs whose camouflage uniform was washed white by their selfless sacrifice, but also pious patriots who found ways to subvert the profession of arms nonviolently.

We will also hear the blood of Christian soldiers crying out from the ground, whose ‘sacrifice’ was mental health and moral integrity. Certainly you have heard of the 20 veterans who kill themselves every day. If the wider American religious landscape is reflected in the military, if 70 percent of service members are Christian, then fourteen of the daily twenty are Christian soldiers. Suicide can often result from internalizing the kinds of comments I’ve heard in my decade of working at the intersection of Christian faith and military service. I am lucky, and I thank God for the mission he has given me, to witness with and for Christian soldiers like me, like Joshua Casteel. Centurions Guild is the vessel through which I hope the story of Christian soldiers will continue to grow and breath life into the harrowing silence that so often follows in wars wake.

Worse than those things I heard about myself was the deafening silence from so many congregations unwilling to take the risk of saying the wrong thing. These affirmations give me hope that the Presbyterian church is willing to step out and Risk Peace. I thank you for your innovative witness and also for your attention today, and I hope you’ll stay for the lunch hour to hear more about Centurions Guild. Pray for us, that we may be partners in this important work of discernment today and as you prepare for the 2016 General Assembly.

Hear now the prayer of the patron of soldiers and chaplains, saint Martin of Tours;

Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue the work you entrust to me, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. While you alone command, I will fight beneath your banner. Grant us your peace, that we may pass it to our neighbors as well as our enemies.

The Feast of Alexander Ney

In the Church, on the day that a saint dies or is buried (“deposited into the earth”), those who knew them or revere them celebrate the life of the saint; they hold a feast. For many churches, feast days that fall in Lent or on Easter get pushed to other days so as to not steal the limelight. But this is a special circumstance, I think.

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CPT Alexander Ney in an undated photo taken during his enrollment at Duke University

April 16, 2017 is Easter. It is also the anniversary of the death of Alexander Ney. Up until recently, I didn’t know much about Alex, and many at Duke didn’t even remember his name. But this morning that changed when I discovered that it was on this day nine years ago that the Duke veteran died by suicide.

On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, Alex took his own life. At the time, he was a 29 year old PhD student studying breast cancer and had a little boy getting ready to turn two years old. Five days later his memorial was held at Duke Chapel, on Monday April 21, 2008, but no recording of the service can be found. He was eulogized by Gaston Warner, Director of University and Community Relations for the Chapel. Arlington National Cemetery is his final resting place.

Five months later, in September, Student Affairs hosted a tailgate during the Army v. Duke football game to attract and organize veterans on campus. One report claims over 100 military related students showed up, including Army Major Mike McInerney, who became the first student veteran leader on campus.

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Alex rests at Court 8, Section HH, Column 7, Niche 4 of the Arlington Columbarium

The website that McInerney set up, DukeVets.org, has lapsed and no longer exists. Despite years of service to Duke as a student and employee, I never heard of the group he is credited with creating which, in a 2009 Duke Today article, was called the “Student Veteran’s Association.”  When I tried, like McInerney, to “[collect] information about services and benefits for Duke students now or previously affiliated with the military,” I was repeatedly shut down and my work obstructed or outright stolen. The “larger initiative at Duke to meet the needs of students with military backgrounds,” which the same 2009 article cites, showed little or no progress until the university became the subject of a federal investigation.

Only once I began insisting that Duke stop paying veterans lip service and put their money where their mouth is, did the university create a Recruitment Representative and Veterans Outreach Coordinator in Human Resources, and hired a graduate assistant position to focus on vets (a position I recommended in 2013 and which I was falsely accused of having turned down). I met with Larry Moneta in early 2013 to suggest the creation of a veteran center on campus on par with the university Women’s Center, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture and the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity. I remember the look on his face when he shook his head and told me that no vet center or other initiative would be funded any time soon. It just didn’t make fiscal sense, but a second major building for the arts apparently did. To be fair, that’s because an alumni donor gave the money to make it make fiscal sense. Despite notable veteran Blue Devils like Eric Shinseki and Martin Dempsey, Duke Alumni Association has no affinity group for them on their website (another 2013 recommendation I made; see p.3).

This is alarming because Moneta has known for awhile that “veteran support issues” were a Duke issue, but he failed or refused to act for seven years following a veteran suicide under his watch. It was Moneta’s office that, in 2009, was supposedly

pushing to formalize veterans’ programming as part of Duke’s new student orientation and is working to add military status to the admissions information collected by Duke’s schools. Dean of Students staff members are designing a campuswide half-day workshop on serving veteran students.

To my knowledge, nothing resembling this description has ever happened at Duke.

If CPT Ney deployed to OIF-I with the 82nd, that means that, not only did our time as paratroopers overlap, but we even served in the same infantry brigade; 3-325 PIR. And not only were we in the same brigade at the same time, we were both field artillery, so he would have been in my same FA battalion, 2-319 AFAR, at some point while I reenlisted and PCSed to Schofield. CPT Ney and I were in the same battalion at the same time; he is no longer an abstraction. Not for me, and not for Duke. It is no longer excusable to pay lip service to military service by elite institutions of higher education like Duke.

I learned of a suicide by a Duke veteran in 2012, and nobody knew his name. Not President Brodhead, not Moneta, not even Clay Adams, who organized the tailgate. Alex died nine years ago today, and he should not be forgotten.  The work that began in response to his tragic and untimely death should be more than words on a page, more than tongues dancing behind lip service to those whose service doesn’t demand the ultimate sacrifice until after we take off our uniform… 

Alex Ney’s name should be added to the War Memorial beside Duke Chapel, and they should update the panels with current names, adding one for Afghanistan, and include those, like Alex, who died long after their service ended. 

Exploitation (Lent 2017)

For lent this year, I am giving up silence.

Sometimes, my silence is a product of systematic injustices that put me into a box, like when I’m reduced to an embodied diagnosis, when military culture is appropriated by civilians, or when veterans are excluded from institutional attention.. But sometimes the injustice seems too calculated to chalk up to mere unconscious bias. Every now and then veterans are tokenized by partisan politics or have their work undervalued or exploited, as has been the case a few times for me.

Before I graduated, I asked about starting an advanced spiritual formation course at Duke Divinity, through the office of the chaplain. As time passed my training and experience increased, and my vocational calling to veterans crystallized, so I offered to lead such a group after I graduated. It didn’t work out that first year, but I revisited the idea after getting back from Scotland. I offered to lead a group without pay as a pilot program after budget concerns were cited (twice), but the story then changed to wanting to get consensus from student veterans and anxiety about the precedent of not paying someone to lead a group for credit. Two weeks later, I got word that the chaplain formed a group after all, but had an administrator lead it, another veteran who had asked me for specific details I had in mind for the group, making it look a lot like intellectual property theft.

When I began looking for work for more concertedly, an acquaintance asked around within the VA about possible programs. This person alerted me to the Veterans Integration To Academic Leadership (VITAL) program, which creates partnerships between VA medical centers and universities, but has no presence in NC. He and I then spoke to the Acting National Director of the program by phone on April 19. Joining us on the call were the suicide prevention coordinator at the Durham VAMC, and an outreach specialist from the Raleigh vet center.

In January the following year, the possibility of a paid position opening up within the Durham VA  grew directly from the conversation the prior April. Anticipating possible employment, I spent several hours compiling data and anecdotal evidence to support an application and illustrate the need for better coordination between the VA and Duke University. The six page document I created, which I titled “DUKE VETERANS Issues and Proposals,” was shared with VA principals, but the position did not coalesce.

There are two columns throughout the document, one that describes the “Issue” that veterans at Duke faced, based on my own experience and the experiences relayed to me by other veterans and civilian staff, as the 2011 founder of a student group at the Divinity School, two years serving as president of Duke Veterans, and the initiator of the first Student Veterans of America chapter at the university.

All 24 Issues had a corresponding Proposal which I recommended based on the same experience, as well as my experience as an undergraduate veteran representative at Hawaii Pacific University, which is consistently ranked one of the most military friendly colleges in the United States. My experience also draws from more than six years on active duty as a paratrooper stationed at Fort Bragg, NC and a noncommissioned officer and artilleryman, including 13 months deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There were four sections, roughly outlined administrative areas, which I reviewed and provided recommendations for;

  • Health Care
  • Registration & Financial Aide
  • Information Systems
  • Student Life & Community Affairs

In six different individual Proposals, across four unique sections, I recommended the establishment of a “paid staff position” to coordinate efforts and effectively engage with and increase cultural sensitivity to veterans. This document was circulated amongst Duke staff and student veterans, but no action was taken, of which I am aware.

In May 2016, after a discussion with Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), I was sent an unsolicited email requesting information about the document’s authors and requesting permission “to share with Duke staff”. I responded that I created it myself, and that it was not complete, because I lacked adequate funding to finish compiling the input from various veterans at Duke. I also stated that the document was created in relation to an employment opportunity, and that

If its use leads to generating funding of any kind, I have to insist I be compensated for the work that went into creating it, as it represents intellectual property and manual labor which has quantifiable value

The United States Copyright Office makes clear that “work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” My work, in the form of population research and expert recommendations made based upon my extensive experience as a veteran and consultant, was “created and fixed” as early as 2014. Furthermore, I replied in writing that its use was not unrestricted; that if money was awarded as a result of my recommendations, then I would require proper compensation.

The OIE representative did not object in any way or form following this email exchange. On May 17, 2016, at 1:13pm, she replied “I understand;” agreeing simultaneously to another restriction, that no names be released publicly.

On December 14, 2016, I learned from a student veteran that the recommendation that a paid staff position be created had in fact been adopted by the Student Affairs office at Duke, which had received the document from OIE seven months prior. I wrote to OIE to confirm, who responded five days later, saying “the fact you have not been contacted should not be taken personally by you.” An Assistant Vice President for Affirmative Action & Equal Opportunity replied

With regard to your prior advocacy for the creation of paid staff positions dedicated to serving veterans at Duke, your input is of course welcome.  The creation of this graduate assistant position, however, arose out of the natural process of evaluating Student Affairs initiatives.  Hopefully you will view this as a positive sign of Duke’s ongoing commitment to student veterans.

However, I did not make an unrestricted offer to the university, and explicitly made my terms clear, which were violated by Duke and my intellectual property was knowingly and consciously infringed by its representatives. Two days later, I replied (the full email is preserved here);

Thank you for getting back to me. You seem to have misunderstood me, however. I did not expect to be contacted about applying for the position, nor do I have any way of taking “it” other than personally, because I am a person, after all. To be clear, my ‘personal’ reaction does not derive from not receiving the job posting. My concern derives from my work being exploited in order to improve university programming too little, too late, which I fear will be one more bandaid solution which leaves all too many underlying issues completely unaddressed. My reaction also derives from the long history Duke has of stifling contrasting voices, discriminating against protected veterans, and tolerating hostile environments.

On May 17th, you solicited this document from me. You also mentioned Student Affairs as being somehow related to the timing which framed your request. In my reply, I told you this document represented work of mine for which I requested compensation if used or if it led to new funding. I requested this because workers should be paid for their time and labor. You are also fully aware that I am a protected veteran. As I said more recently, [Clay] Adams’ non communication begins to appear retaliatory, or at least exploitative.

Retaliatory:

I identified myself as a community stake holder in how Duke treats veterans both as a student, alumnus, and as a local resident. Adams ceased communicating with me in 2013 even after convening a meetings in which he told several Duke and non Duke stake holders he would continue the meetings every semester. I can name four witnesses to that statement, which was made in April 2013. I never received any further communication about any meetings, though Adams would have known I am invested in working for veterans. He ceased communicating with me that same year, and I never received word of further meetings, which were supposed to be held every semester. It is fine for Adams to not like my input, but for any administrator at Duke to exclude me from any and all deliberations about veterans at the third largest employer in NC is neither necessary nor reasonable. I also will be asking the Department of Justice, and other relevant agencies, to investigate whether this exclusionary and selective treatment interferes with or limits my ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges extended to other alumni, employees, or local stake holders.

Exploitative:

You personally asked for my work and your office then shared it internally without any communication with me thereafter. If you or Adams did not like my input, agreeing with one or more of my recommendations while simultaneously excluding me from any and all deliberations is contradictory at the least. It also makes it look as though Duke is making use of and/or deriving benefit from me (the definition of exploitation), for the purpose of improving its programming and institutional reputation, improvements which I have called for several years in a row now. Calling this a “natural” process begs for definition, because it otherwise appears that these changes are only being implemented because of my speaking up for myself and other veterans. However, Duke’s refusal to be genuinely collaborative is forcing the issue to federal agencies, which is more likely to negatively affect my professional development, in the midst of a growing family, than it is to affect Duke in any substantive way.

Student Affairs could have created this position ‘naturally’ at any time since the passage of VEVRAA in the 1970’s, including the semester in which I advocated for it in 2013. But it was not created until a few months after you requested this document from me and shared it with Student Affairs. Material which I identified as intellectual property was solicited and then used without any apparent effort to communicate with me or recognize my contribution thereto. I suspect DoL can find out more precisely when Moneta and Adams began shaping the job posting, and if it began in the late spring, that would represent direct evidence that my input was incorporated after being explicitly solicited by you; either as the impetus for creating the position, or as a direct and solicited contribution to its development.

I cannot applaud any selective and arbitrary “commitment” to student veterans because I myself was a student veteran, and Duke’s “commitment” to me as a student, an alumnus, and as an employee has been incompetent, unprofessional, and discriminatory. I will not applaud harassment, bias, or discrimination against myself or any veteran.

The OIE representative did not reply to this email. The last I ever received from her was her insistence that I “view this as a positive sign of Duke’s ongoing commitment to student veterans.”

In a January 24, 2017 call with the OFCCP investigator representing the Department of Labor, I learned that university general counsel had provided false information to a federal agency. The investigator asked me to explain why I had denied an offer of employment for the position in question. I forwarded the above discussed correspondence to the person to prove this accusation by the office of Duke counsel was entirely false.