This column about whether or not to put the name of Staff Sgt. David Senft on the Tracy War Memorial after he killed himself during his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East has generated the most response out of any column I've written during my six years at the Tracy Press.
For good reason. Honoring servicemen and suicide are extremely emotional issues both. Combine them, and hoo boy.
For the record, nearly all the feedback I've received is in support of putting Senft's name on the memorial despite the argument of Scott and Julie Conover, whose son is on the war memorial for dying in battle. They say the fact that Senft took, instead of gave, his life is reason to make a distinction when it comes to the memorial.
The Conovers understand it's a touchy subject. I talked to Scott on Friday after the column ran, and he said he respects Senft's family and has the utmost sympathy. But he said that while Senft served bravely, his final action should mean the difference between being on and off the memorial.
“We support the military, and we support this family, too, whether they know it or not,” he told me. “We just don’t think a suicide belongs on the war memorial.”
For their part, Senft's family thinks he without a doubt deserves the honor. My take is on display in the column.
All this emotion promises to play out tonight at the American Legion Hall. I've heard the War Memorial Association plans on moving the meeting into a bigger part of the hall than it's used to — this could be the best-attended WMA meeting in history.