Wounded Iraq veteran Anthony Maschek last week encountered heckling and booing from fellow Columbia University students as he spoke at a town hall meeting on whether ROTC programs should be allowed on the Ivy League school’s campus.
The story has been getting big play as vets’ groups and commentators decry the apparent lack of respect for the former Army staff sergeant, who miraculously survived a 2008 insurgent attack where he was shot 11 times and broke both legs. While an audio recording of the meeting shows that the booing and shouting was mostly over a political statement he made about terrorism — not specifically about the military or ROTC — the situation does put the spotlight on vets’ treatment at elite schools.
We caught up last night with his Maschek’s wife, Angela Maschek, and got her take on the verbal attacks that have ignited so much controversy — and the pride she feels in her husband for standing up for what he believes. You can hear an edited audio recording of our conversation or read the transcript below.
Amy: This is Amy Bushatz, and I am talking to Angel Maschek, the spouse of former Staff Sgt. Anthony Maschek who was recently heckled and booed at a Columbia University town hall meeting on whether or not to let ROTC back in the school. Angela, thank you so much for talking to us today.
Angela: Amy, thank you for having me. I am honored to speak with you.
Amy: How did you learn about the incident involving your husband?
Angela: He did come home and talk to me, you know, about how the events went down of the evening and he was also there with a couple of other vets, and I also heard their reactions as well.
Amy: What was your immediate reaction?
Angela: Initially my husband, you know, told me his version and from his point of view, he believed it was a positive experience, in the sense that he got his message out there, there was a lot of cheers, there was a lot of positivity from the crowd. So, that was my first impression of what happened.
Amy: How do you feel about the media attention this has gotten since it happen?
Angela: It’s a little unbelievable and a little surreal to be very honest with you.
Amy: I listened to a recording of the townhall meeting, and from what I can tell the booing was pretty minimal. That’s not to say it wasn’t a bad thing, but do you think people are maybe blowing this a little bit out of proportion.
Angela: Yeah, I mean, I do in a sense. But on the other hand, I mean, you know very timely for me to say this — but I guess everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I mean what I hear might not necessarily be what other people hear. So, I mean, I guess it’s kind of on an individual basis, I suppose.
Amy: Sure. As military spouses, I think we often tend to get more upset by the slights taken by our husbands, or soldiers, or what not than maybe they do.
Amy: Do you think you’re maybe more upset about this than he is? How is that playing out in your household?
Angela: You know, I mean I don’t know that — I can say most certainly that I don’t think I’m any more upset than he is. If anything, there’s just I think such a huge sense of pride. And I think any military spouse can appreciate that. Whenever you think that your husband has done you proud or done the military proud, there’s always that sense of pride. I can say it’s not such a negative experience for me, it’s that I admire and respect him for standing up the way that he did.
Amy: It’s hard to hear in the recording, but do you think there was significant support voiced for him at the same time as the hissing and booing.
Angela: Absolutely, undeniably. It’s funny, because you say that and I kind of get a shiver. Because from what I hear there’s just these people that are passionately cheering and passionately encouraging and supporting him, and I just think that that is beautiful.
Amy: How do you feel he’s treated on a daily basis at the university?
Angela: Incredible. Nothing short of wonderfully treated.
Amy: Are there ways that they can be more welcoming to vets than perhaps they already are?
Angela: Hard for me to say because I’ve been on the campus a few times taking my own private little tour. I can’t really say if there’s anything they can do differently. But as far as I’m concerned from how I’ve seen Anthony treated, I can’t think of anything that they could do differently or do better.
Amy: What do you hope comes out of all of this?
Angela: Oh geez — I think the one great thing that’s coming out of this so far is just the media attention on ROTC, period. Obviously Anthony clearly supports ROTC coming into Columbia. I back him, I also support it. I just think that this is a great opportunity to teach people about ROTC that maybe aren’t aware of it. And maybe people that are on the fence about the issue — it might get them to look into the issue a little bit more, to think about it. And so if nothing else comes out of this its just awareness and I think that awareness is always an amazing thing.
Amy: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Angela: Thank you, again, thank you so much for having me.