Staffers make statement of troop support

Go red 'til they come home. That's the theme of a movement being carried on by a handful of Western Washington University staff members who have vowed to wear red every Friday until the military troops overseas return home.

It's a gesture of support for the men and women who serve, said June Fraser Thistle, a federal Perkins specialist and one of the driving forces behind the effort.

"This isn’t about the pros and cons of war," she said. "This is about real people entering very unreal situations for us. This is about real people who come home and sometimes feel unappreciated and lost. These are our students or family or friends."

The effort, which she started at Western after receiving an e-mail describing the whole red-shirt-on-Friday idea, also is about showing support to the troops at home.

"I want troops who have already returned to see that we will not forget what they have done for us, and the wearing of red is in honor of them and those who have yet to come home," she said. "The wearing of red is the first step in creating awareness. This could be the start of something big."

Sue Johnson, who works in the Student Accounts Office, said she remembers the conflict in Vietnam and regrets how those soldiers were treated.

"I felt that the masses of yellow ribbons for the first Iraq War were in some ways a make up call to all the Vietnam vets—a promise that this time we would better support our troops," said Johnson, whose parents both served in World War II. "In this war, life goes on unaffected for the majority of Americans. I think the low turnout at the school’s Veterans Day service was an indication of that. We are living our lives as usual while these men and women are out there enduring tremendous hardships that will ultimately return them to civilian society with all sorts of physical and emotional injuries."

It's important to remember the people, said Cheryl Whiting, a credit evaluator in the registrar's office at WWU.

"All those who are serving are part of somebody's family," said Whiting, whose brother, who still is in the military, has served in Iraq.

"(It's important to do) any little thing we can do to draw attention and support for those who are willing to give their lives to help protect us from harm," said Laurie Porter, who works for Parking Services at Western. "This has been a priority for me, whenever I come in contact with anyone in the service, to make a point to tell them 'Thanks' and how much I appreciate their efforts and sacrifice."
The campaign to wear red on Fridays is an easy way to do that, she said.

"It is such a simple thing that can mean so much to military personnel who see this silent yet effective show of support," she said. "It also makes a statement to others to begin their support as well."

The effort has little to do with the politics of war and a lot to do with showing solidarity with the soldiers, said Lori Chapman, who works in the registrar's office.

"Whether or not you believe the war is right or wrong, we need to support our troops in any way possible," she said.

Suzette Merrick, who works in the cashier's office, agreed.

"I feel our military is very important in keeping our country safe and free," she said.

Tracey Bannon Cullen, who works with Merrick in the cashier's office at WWU, said showing support for the troops is a small matter compared to what they must go through in the field.

"I want to let those guys know that I will be thinking of them until they are safely home," she said. "It is important to me because I saw my nephew, a young man of 21, come back a seasoned veteran at 24. It is important to me that we do not forget, neglect or become apathetic. It is a horrible situation our men and women are dealing with over in Iraq and other hostile areas."

The movement has been around since at least 2005, when e-mail messages touting the idea began touring the Internet. In 2006, a Red Fridays campaign took hold in Canada after it was championed by the Web site Companies have taken on the effort too. Southwest Airlines, according to its blog at, encourages its employees to wear red on Fridays in support of the troops.


Below is a poem written in February 2007 by Sue Johnson, a fiscal analyst in the Student Accounts Office at Western Washington University. It is printed here with permission.

Not Just Statistics

by Sue Johnson


The Dead

When you don’t know them

They are just a statistic.

But when you do, they

Are a bereavement,

A loss, a missing piece

From the jigsaw puzzle

That is the rest of your life.

And however you place the pieces

There will always be a hole,

An emptiness, a space,

A lack of continuity

Where they should have been.


The Wounded

For those who are wounded

The missing pieces are

Within themselves, and they

Can no longer grow into

The person they were meant to be.

We will see that they need help

But they do not want

Our pity or our charity.

They want their old self back

And we can never give them that-

Only the drugs to ease their pain,

The crutches and the canes

To help them move

And the counseling that can never

Be enough.


The Intact

We expect the ones who return intact

To be unsullied by the fray-

Sure beyond a doubt

That everything they did was

Right and honorable and justified.

We do not want them haunted

By mistakes or doubts

We do not want to know

That they have lost their innocence

Making split-second decisions

That may be right or wrong

And living with the consequences

Every day.

We want our experiences of war

To match our experience of store-bought meat

We want our heroes neatly packaged

In their dress-uniforms.

We do not want them dirty or

Unkempt or splattered with the

Blood and guts of friend or foe.

We ask that they tell us

Only what we want to hear.

That they were knights in shining armor

Who went out and saved the world.

We do not want them to tell us the rest

Because that way they are left

To carry the guilt for anything

That went wrong.

And we remain blameless and