Sunday, July 22, 2007

Those who serve and Those who don't

I’ll be honest. When I saw the cover story for today’s Washington Post Magazine I wasn’t sure I had the stomach to read it. After all, the Washington Post is rarely a friend to the military. They ran the story the under the blazing title

US and THEM: As mistrust, resentment, and misunderstanding grow between the civilian and military communities, can America wage a just and effective war?

In reality, this article written by Kristin Henderson, a Navy chaplain’s wife, is amazingly balanced and well written. Please read the entire thing. There are many well-made points like this one:

Less than half the civilian population believes military leaders can be relied on to respect civilian control of the military, according to surveys by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, an academic think tank in North Carolina. Never mind that 92 percent of military leaders still insist their civilian masters should have the final say on whether to use military force. And while nearly two-thirds of military leaders believe they share the same values as the American people, only about one-third of their civilian counter-parts agree. The vast majority of civilians believe service members are intolerant, stingy, rigid and lacking in creativity. More than 20 percent report they'd be disappointed if their children joined the military. Before the invasion of Iraq, the editorial boards of major newspapers endorsed the use of force, yet a search turned up no calls for Americans to join up to support the effort. President Bush urged civilians to go shopping.

"The military is at war, but the country is not," warns University of Maryland sociologist David Segal.


Or this one:

Contrary to a common misperception, minorities are only slightly overrepresented in the military, making up 35 percent of service personnel compared to about 33 percent of the general population.

Overall, recruits tend to come from small towns. And, while these small towns often have a boarded-up factory, family incomes indicate that those joining the military are the upwardly mobile working middle class.

There's clearly some self-selection going on, too, because nearly half of all Army recruits are following in the footsteps of a parent who has served. We seem to be creating an American warrior class.

Finally, these words by Chuck Hagel ring very true:

He sits back. "Second, I don't think you want a free society where you've got a very clear difference between the people and the paid professional military, kind of the guns-for-hire type, and whatever trouble we get into we'll just send them over."

And how does that hurt anybody besides the guns for hire?

"It disconnects the people from the kind of commitment and sacrifice that goes into this. You ask the question, so what? So what is: You then raise another generation of Americans thinking they have no obligations, thinking they have no responsibilities, thinking that they're born into this world as an American so we'll pay these kids over here to go join the armed forces. That's the real danger here. Service. Citizenship. What is the responsibility of a citizen?"

A difference between the military population and the general population that I have observed is the higher percentage of the military who actively profess a religious faith when compared to the civilian population. I do not know of any surveys that back up this perception but I would not be surprised if there were some. I do not think that military service promotes religion. Rather, I believe those who are drawn to military service are the same people who acknowledge a power far greater that themselves. They can recognize a cause greater than their own personal desires. They understand and respond to the call to serve. Do I think we should go back to the days when everyone has to do their time in the military? No. I do think that a great many young people would do well to spend a year or two serving their country in some fashion.


My father served as an Air Force officer. I served as an Air Force officer. My husband still serves as an Air Force officer and has flown over thirty combat missions during his career including this one. His grandfather, his step-grandfather, and his uncle were all career military officers. My oldest son expects to be commissioned as an officer in the Army next year. I guess we qualify as part of that “American warrior class”. I firmly abhor war. But I value freedom. I know freedom comes at a cost. I hope those elitist parents who shield their children from military service because it is somehow beneath their station in life to serve someday look into the eyes of those who willingly serve America. Perhaps then they will recognize patriotism and heroism. Perhaps their perception of their own stature and importance will diminish. Perhaps they will appreciate a cause greater than self-indulgence.

This post is also found here.

2 comments:

Erika S. said...

Awesome Site. As a Catholic woman, mother and wife of an Active Duty Marine it is a blessing. I am adding this to my blog roll!

Lu said...

Found your blog as I was blog hunting this afternoon! Amen to your post! Loved it! A few of my family members served in the military, none of them as career military, but still, I value my freedom and know that it comes at a HUGE cost... Cost of the military men and women AND THEIR FAMILIES! Thank you for such a wonderful and well put post!