by: Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie

Last week Syracuse University dedicated its National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building. This innovative facility will serve veterans and military-connected families in Central New York and across the nation.

The dedication of the NVRC was delayed due to the pandemic, and that delay has afforded me time to reflect on the question I am most asked related to this new facility. That is, “why create an academic facility focused on veterans and their families at Syracuse University?” Reading between the lines, what I’m really being asked is “why should I care?”

It’s a reasonable question, and here’s my answer in two, related parts.

First, I believe all individuals and institutions have a moral obligation to assume responsibility for the costs and consequences associated with America’s decision to wage war.

In 1973, the United States abandoned the draft and adopted an ‘all-volunteer’ model of military service. In other words, after Vietnam this country enacted a model of military service purposefully designed to insulate most Americans and American institutions from the costs and consequences associated with its wars.

Consequently, over the past 20 years of sustained conflict, less than 1% of Americans have served in uniform. Even further, our post-9/11 wars are the first in U.S. history not funded, at least in part, by the American taxpayer. There’s been no war tax, or any direct financial sacrifice on the part of the American people and the bill—now approaching $14-trillon—has been largely paid on “credit.”

Insulating society and its institutions from the human and financial consequences of war is exceedingly dangerous. When only “some” Americans shoulder the burden of war—war as an instrument of foreign policy is too easy a path for politicians to walk.           It also means that for the small minority of Americans who fight those wars, when they come home and require support and care, their needs are too easily dismissed as “the government’s problem.”

All this is to say the National Veterans Resource Center represents, in both a symbolic and practical way, Syracuse University’s commitment to paying on the obligation inherent in a model of military service where the many benefit from the service and sacrifice of a few.

The second reason why you should care that Syracuse University has built and launched the National Veterans Resource Center relates to the opportunity it represents for the University and for Central New York.

Syracuse University has not always been the private largest employer in the region. In fact, up until World War II, Syracuse University was a regional college that barely had an enrollment that exceeded 4,000 students.