Wed, May 23, 2018 12:28 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Students form campus

HARRISONBURG, Va . — Justin Gray was a little annoyed when half his Buddhism class at James Madison University walked out in protest of the war.

All the anti-war students seemed to accomplish was miss out on an interesting lecture and disrupt the downtown community with their parade, flag waving and noise making.

“I thought they were entitled to their opinions,” said Gray, 20, “But it made me think, what are you accomplishing? They could have done so much more.”

Gray would have preferred the protesters act on their beliefs and help the Iraqi people.

He felt the same way about JMU students rallying for American troops on campus. What good would holding signs and waving the American flag really do for the troops?

Gray could watch silently no longer. He and his friend, Andrea Troncoso, 20, decided to move forward with their own plan to help both sides involved in the war.

Fellow college student Ruby Manoharan, 22, joined the effort, now known as Operation JMU, an organization formed not to support one side, but to represent both.

With the university’s permission, Gray, Troncoso and Manoharan set up Operation JMU tables on the commons and in the college center.

Despite the recent gray and gloomy weather, students stopped by to donate money for the cause.

Freshman Valerie Mahr said that although she didn’t agree with the war, it is important to make the distinction between opposing the war and supporting American troops risking their lives.

“You can be against the war but still appreciate what our soldiers are going through,” Mahr said.

The banners will be sent to the USO in Washington, D. C., along with half the money collected. The other half will be sent to a humanitarian organization working in Iraq.

After a couple of days, more than $200 had been collected.

Students can also donate supplies such as bandages, soap, shampoo and toothbrushes to create medical kits and pencils and notebooks for school supply kits for Iraqi children.

To help the troops, Operation JMU is asking students to donate care packages and cards.

Manoharan thinks the success of Operation JMU comes from students having the choice to support either the pro-or anti-war sentiment.

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