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Anti-war West Point grads told to stop using school's name

Melissa McEwan
Published: Friday May 19, 2006

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An attorney for the U.S. Military Academy has sent a letter to the founders of a group of anti-war West Point graduates, informing them that the term "West Point" cannot be used by the organization, RAW STORY has learned.

Lori L. Doughty, an intellectual property attorney from the office of the judge advocate, wrote to West Point Graduates Against the War (WPGAW) on behalf of the nation's oldest military academy. The letter, acquired by RAW STORY, asserts that the trademark is "deeply important" to protect the "image and standing of the United States Military Academy in [sic] the national and world stage."

WPGAW co-founder Jim Ryan notes, "The academy has negotiated deals with local businesses, such as West Point Pizza, West Point Cleaners, and the West Point Motel... How does a pizza parlor enhance West Point's image on the world stage?"

A West Point spokesman has explained that the Academy's name cannot be used in association with partisan groups.

Ryan and his two co-founders, fellow West Point graduates Bill Cross and Joe Wojcik, have been friends for nearly 50 years, since they met in 1958 as part of the same company during their plebe year.

To this day, they say they adhere to West Point's Cadet Honor Code: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." Motivated by the "lies and glosses of the Bush administration" and the "callous disregard for the truth that has placed so many of our military people--and innocent Iraqis--in peril," which the three men felt were in direct contradiction of the Cadet Honor Code, they launched WPGAW. Since going online in early April, the site has had over 33,000 visitors.

Bob Shuey, a 1962 West Point graduate, is one of WPGAW's members. "I joined WPGAW as soon as I heard about it," he said, "because I believe the Bush administration led the U.S. into the war using intentionally exaggerated and distorted information."

Shuey is not alone, as other West Point grads join--and those who can't send and post messages of support.

"We have received messages from people all over the world saying how our organization has given them hope and pride," Ryan said, "and how their respect for the graduates of the United States Military Academy has been enhanced even more because we have spoken out about this disgusting abomination that is Iraq. We have active duty graduate-members serving in Iraq who thank us, saying that we have given them a voice that they do not have."

However, it is a voice that West Point does not want associated with its trademarked name. Ryan takes issue with their claim that the use of the name somehow undermines the image or standing of the Academy.

"We are West Point graduates, trained to honor the truth, and abjure falsehood," he said. "And we are opposed to the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. These policies, founded on falsehood, have the power to do much more damage to the world, and to the reputation of the United States. Falsehood and misstatement have been the raison d'etre of the Bush administration. The American people who bankrolled our education at West Point deserve to know how we feel. And West Point officers in the field deserve to have a voice beyond just the West Point alumni magazine or the quasi-official alumni chat-groups. So we provide try to provide such a voice."

WPGAW had hoped that their group would be seen as "a positive force" by West Point, as they stress they have no quarrel with West Point and are not anti-military. "In fact, " said Ryan, "we are disgusted with how the US military has been debased by this government. As Representative Murtha said, 'the guys who got five deferments and never been there.' You know, Thoreau's 'summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.' These people are the danger, not us. When we were commissioned as officers we swore to defend the Constitution against 'all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"

The group is still using the name at this point, and will continue to fight for its right to do so. WPGAW's attorney mailed a response to the letter two weeks ago. As of the time of publication, there has been no response. Requests for comment by RAW STORY were also not immediately returned.

"We will protect our Constitutional right to speak out as what we are, proud graduates of West Point, and we will defend that right to the end, as should the authorities at West Point," said Ryan. "The name 'West Point' is our indelible, moral birthright, as it is for all members of the Long Gray Line. The authorities at the academy should reread General MacArthur's 1962 speech if there is any difficulty understanding what I just said. No one, and no institution, can deny us what we have earned and what we cherish. And we care not a whit for pizza games."

Membership in WPGAW is open to all alumni of the United States Military Academy, and widows, widowers, parents, and children of deceased graduates. Membership has been growing steadily since the website was launched earlier this month, and includes retired and active duty graduates.