Muslim Group Salutes Veterans

May 28, 2007

Author: Aisha Sultan

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON BARRACKS — As soon as Clark Smith wheeled himself on his gurney to the veteran appreciation barbecue in the hospital courtyard, he knew these volunteers were different.

Dozens of groups and hundreds of volunteers throughout the year host events to honor veterans at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center buildings at Jefferson Barracks. But this was the first time Smith, a Vietnam vet paralyzed from the chest down, had seen girls wearing hijab serving grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken.

"Usually, I run around without a shirt on, but when I saw this group, I decided to wear one," Smith said. "Show a little respect."

That sentiment went both ways. The 20 or so volunteers with the newly formed American Muslim Coalition decided to make their first official group event a salute to the veterans.

"The veterans and soldiers, I feel for them. They are doing their job," said Ilijas Gusmirovic, 23, a second-year medical student from St. Louis. While he opposes the war in Iraq, he blames the politicians — not the soldiers. He said he came to the barbecue to thank those who have served their country.