On Saturday night, the San Diego State Aztecs hosted BYU to close out their regular football season. The game was the 3rd Annual Fleet Week-sponsored game, rescheduled from October 27 because of wildfires. The Fleet Week Foundation describes the game like this:
San Diego State University plays in this third annual Fleet Week Football Classic. Pregame and half-time shows will feature flyovers, parachutists, the Navy Region South West and SDSU bands, and a tribute to our wounded warriors at Balboa Hospital and Camp Pendleton as well as a tribute to members of the Legion of Valor.
The festivities have a wide range of public and private sponsors and it’s fun for the whole family right? Well, for at least the second year in a row (probably all three), the halftime show included an American flag being parachuted onto the field by members of a nation parachutist team…who happen to work for Blackwater and use parachutes emblazoned with the Blackwater logo.
Attached is the promotional video from last year’s (2006) Fleet Week. You can skip ahead to the 2:43 mark to see the Blackwater parachutist bringing in the giant American flag. If you want, you can also zip over to about the 3:09 mark to see the flag being dragged across the field during landing.
Fleet Week events, which go on year round, are to honor veterans. I’ve attended several of them and in my experience they’ve been good opportunities to pay tribute to veterans. So I have a hard time understanding how Blackwater fits into the puzzle. They consistently undermine the work being done by our armed forces around the world and especially in Iraq. It seems a particularly unfortunate inclusion in the festivities; made all the more uncomfortable given that the Blackwater recall election culminates on Tuesday (12/11).
I spoke with Steve Becvar of the SDSU Athletic Foundation, which was involved in planning the event. He explained that this is the third year that Blackwater-affiliated parachutists had played a role in the Fleet Week game. He emphasized that the school was not seeking to make any sort of political point, simply to partner with the Fleet Week Foundation to honor veterans.
But despite what may well have been the best intentions of event organizers, Blackwater has NO business honoring veterans. Blackwater profits from war and has a vested interest in prolonging any military struggle as long as it increases revenue. They are, in fact, naturally at odds with everything that our veterans should be honored for. They dishonor the flag and all the people who have bled for it whenever they or their representatives try to wrap themselves or the Blackwater logo in the American flag.
Blackwater knows what it does. And they know that they’re nothing next to the members of the actual military. Past that, they know that their only hope for success or survival is to blur the distinction between their criminal behavior and the valor of American servicemen and women. As the Potrero vote peaks, I hope San Diegans and Americans everywhere refuse to be tricked. Blackwater is hoping for honor by osmosis, but they end up literally and figuratively dragging the reputations of our soldiers through the mud.
If people wanted yet ANOTHER reason to resist at every opportunity Blackwater’s plans for a training facility in Potrero, here you go. They’ve taken advantage of SDSU and the Fleet Week Foundation to undermine what otherwise could have been a wonderful evening for veterans. But Blackwater doesn’t serve the United States or its ideals. Blackwater serves the dollar. And they have no business being remotely affiliated with veterans or current servicemembers.
So from San Diego to Blackwater: Get out and stay out.