I’ve often wondered if our society is heading for a break between those who believe themselves to be the intellectual elite and those who serve in the military. I’ve even tried to convince my talented daughter to write a novel about a “future America” where there is a military caste, where only members of military families are permitted to join, which is in conflict with an elite caste, responsible for political decisions the military caste must enforce. I think it would be an interesting novel . . . but I digress (again). There is some basis for my speculation. There are very few members of either Congress or the Senate that have served in the military, and very few of their children have volunteered. Some universities do not permit ROTC units on their campuses, and deny ROTC instructors faculty status. Some parents groups have actively worked against high school recruiters; and then there is Code Pink and their demonstration against the Marine Recruiters in Berkley. Finally, who can forget Senator Kerry’s political gaffe during the last election cycle when he said that only the disadvantaged and those too stupid to go to college join the military. These are all examples of how some who consider themselves intellectually superior look down on the military.
So it was a real treat for me to read an article published in the August 18, 2008 edition of the National Review. The article, titled A Call, and an Answer was written by two 2008 graduates of Dartmouth (Michael Knapp and Ethan Mefford) and explains why they chose to join the Marines. These two young men write how they made a deliberate choice to join the military, as do all who are members of our all-volunteer forces. They relate how their decision was prompted a number of reasons. They were struck by the news stories of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the concept that this struggle was a defining moment for their generation. They found support for the idea of military service from their study of history and government, and were inspired by stories of “generations of men and women who have exhibited similar courage and struggled, often selflessly, for a greater cause. . .” These two young men recognized that,
“By virtue of the upbringing that this society had allowed us, and the myriad opportunities that had been extended our way simply because we are Americans, it was incumbent upon us to offer our services to our country. The privileges we have enjoyed endow us with a responsibility, an obligation, to fulfill President Kennedy’s charge: To this country that has given us so much, it is our turn to give back. We reject the pernicious belief, commonly held at our most highly esteemed institutions, that fighting our nation’s battles is someone else’s job.”
Wow! I have hope! These two young men from an elite university get it. Perhaps not all is lost, and there isn’t such a big divide between the intellectual elite and those who enter the military. Service is not something you ask of “the other guy,” it is something you should require of yourself. These two young men recognize that service is a “great equalizer, bringing together people of all different backgrounds and teaching them to work as a team.” They recognize that they both have “something to offer” and that they “have what it takes.” Would that more young men and women recognize the same things.
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