After intense backlash for canceling a 21-gun salute for last week’s Veterans Day ceremony, the University of Virginia (UVA) acknowledged making a mistake and promised to bring the long-held tradition back next year.
In a statement posted to Facebook, UVA President Jim Ryan said the decision to drop the salute was a mistake “motivated by good intentions.”
“Sometimes you make mistakes,” Ryan wrote. “Although motivated by good intentions, I believe we made a mistake this year in excluding the 21-gun salute from our Veterans Day ceremony. Having attended the ceremony, and having consulted with the commander in charge, I am confident that we can accommodate a 21-gun salute, which had been a meaningful feature of the ceremony in years past.”
“We will therefore reinstate the 21-gun salute next year, and we will make sure to minimize any disruptions to classes and communicate the details of the ceremony in advance,” Ryan added, referencing his Nov. 9 statement, in which he reasoned that firing weapons near academic buildings could cause “disruption to classes,” and that having gunfire on campus might make students who are sensitive to school shootings uncomfortable.
“Thanks to all who shared their views about this topic, and my sincere apologies to any who may have doubted our commitment to honoring our veterans, whom we hold in the highest esteem and who deserve our gratitude,” he wrote.
Larry J. Sabato, director of UVA’s Center for Politics, wrote on Twitter that he was glad Ryan backed off.
“The 21-gun salute in our Veterans Day ceremony is a treasured part of the University’s demonstration of its gratitude to America’s veterans,” Sabato wrote. “We all make mistakes, and we all need wisdom and humility to correct our errors. Thank you to President Jim Ryan for doing the right thing. Now let’s move forward together without rancor or second-guessing to focus on the big challenges ahead.”
College Republicans at UVA, the conservative student group that voiced their frustration about the decision to exclude the gun salute, also welcomed Ryan’s change of course.
“Thank you Jim Ryan for reinstating the 21-gun salute at the University’s Veterans Day ceremonies,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We appreciate you listening to the concerned voices of our local community, and protecting the traditions we honor our veterans through!”
The 21-gun salute, formally known as three-volley rifle salute, is traditionally performed at the closing ceremony for UVA Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets’ 24-hour vigil on Veterans Day, according to The Cavalier Daily, the university’s student newspaper. This tradition has been a part of the UVA ROTC vigil, which specifically honors prisoners of war and those missing in action, for at least a decade.