There’s no question that we owe veterans more than we can ever repay them. But does that include free reign to disrupt their home neighborhoods?
The situation in the small town of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, is a tricky one. Lieutenant Commander Joshua Corney, an active duty naval officer, has been playing a recording of Taps, the military bugle call, over a loudspeaker in his backyard since 2015. Corney says he made a promise to do this in remembrance of his fellow service members—particularly the ones who never made it home.
This spring, however, a neighbor filed an official complaint about the noise, leading to a city council decision to require Corney to limit his activities to Sundays and flag holidays. Violations will cost Corney $300.
Glen Rock is an area full of veterans and active duty military members, so in general, this sort of thing barely has people batting an eye. In fact, there was a bit of an outcry when the council decision came down, with people flocking to support Corney’s actions.
The sentiment behind playing Taps is, of course, a noble one. Corney’s own experiences, not to mention those of his fellow service men and women, deserve to be commemorated. But it’s questionable whether that commemoration really requires playing loud music every night—particularly if it’s causing his neighbors distress.
There are other ways to honor fallen comrades: donating to charities that support veterans, volunteering with nonprofit organizations, and writing down and sharing your experiences are just a few. Playing Taps over a loudspeaker is hardly the best—or least intrusive—way to do it.
Other elements of the backlash are pretty disturbing, too. Council member Victoria Ribeiro released a statement to Fox43 noting that the neighbors who had filed the complaint were “horrified” by the way they were subsequently treated, including “genuinely fear[ing] they will be labeled as un-American, bitter troublemakers that started a feud with their neighbors.”
The situation has gotten so bad that Corney and the council got together and released a joint statement. While they acknowledge that “this issue has stirred deep, emotional responses from the public,” they ask that the community put “an end to the threats, vandalism, intimidation, hateful discord, and references to violence in order to allow us a safe place to reasonably discuss and consider the issues without fear of reprisal or retaliation.”
For a community that claims to support quintessential American rights (one of which is free speech), it’s appalling that they would use intimidation tactics and violence to threaten neighbors who simply submitted a noise complaint. It speaks to a larger issue around what patriotism really is: an excuse for violence and intimidation? Or a genuine love for this country?
Whatever the ultimate resolution to this situation, it’s an opportunity to open a conversation around how we can truly support the men and women who give their lives to protect our country (hint: it’s more than just playing Taps). Using a desire to honor veterans as an excuse to threaten neighbors completely misses the point.