The Few, the Proud Get More Numerous

All the armed services have exceeded their recruitment goals and they are recruiting higher quality than ever. The Marines managed to reach their EXPANDED goals years early.  The “Washington Post” article reporting this still suffers some of the old-fashioned thinking that people are somehow driven by dire circumstance into joining up.   In fact most recruits come from middle class or upper middle class backgrounds. The military no longer gets most, or even many, of its recruits from among the poor and uneducated.  Unfortunately for these guys, they cannot pass the tests or requirements to get in. 

Ethnically as well as economically the military looks like America. 

The military is a little more rural and a little more southern than the general population. There is a lot of speculation about why this might be true.  Rural people tend to be patriotic, in my experience, and they also tend to know how to use guns and operate heavy equipment.  These attitudes and skills are useful in the military.   As for the South, military service has been a tradition since the time of George Washington. There are also military families, among which lots of people serves and there are families where nobody does.   Sociologist might explain it. Habits and attitudes cross generations.

You can find a profile of the American military at this link.

My father was in the Army-Air Corps during WWII, but we don’t have a military tradition in our family. I encouraged Alex and Espen to think about the military, but so far they have decided not to. I was ineligible for military service because of what the doctor called an ulcer when I was sixteen.  It is a funny story now.   I was less amused then. I tried to join in 1982 as an Airforce officer.  I passed all the tests and went in for my physical, which I thought would be a piece of cake. It was.  My blood pressure was low.  I didn’t have any physical problems.  BUT I had “history.”   Back when I was sixteen I coughed up some blood.  It scared me and my mother so to the doctor we went.  The doctor at the time called it an ulcer. I drank a lot of milk and ate bland foods for a while and it went away – forever.  But the diagnosis stuck. Ten years later, the military doctors told me that I was too sick for military service and there was nothing I could do to prove otherwise because the records said so.  Just as well.   I went in the FS a couple years later and it was a good fit.  Beyond that, my peculiar talents are probably better employed in this line of work. Still, I think I would have looked good in that blue uniform.

I worked with military attaches a lot in my career, but it was my year with the Marines in Iraq that gave me real first-hand experience with the military in action in their actual environment.  I was impressed by the Marines I got to know and had the privilege of working with in Iraq. The enlisted men are sometimes just kids, but they are a lot more responsible than those you find working at McDonald’s or not working at all.   You can trust your life to them; I did.  The way they deploy to respond to threats is poetry in motion. The officers are smart, but practical and unpretentious.  Generally, the military is better educated and better behaved than comparable civilians. Almost all the enlisted men have HS diplomas, at least.    Nearly all the officers are college educated and many have advanced degrees.   

I get angry when I see the stereotypical portrayal of military officers in much of the media. It is even worse when pinheaded pseudo intellectuals on elite campuses shun connections with the military or out of touch weirdos in places like San Francisco actually try to ban recruiting.  The negative image that engenders is persuasive in many parts of our society and it keeps lots of kids from even thinking the military.  It is a loss to them and our country.

There is a saying that if a country that separates its soldiers from its intellectuals will get fools do the fighting and cowards do the thinking.   I know from experience that the people doing the fighting are NOT fools. It is a shame if some of our self-described intellectuals don’t get to be all they could be because of their own prejudices and outdated ideas.   

Now more young Americans are taking up the challenge.   The few, the proud have become more numerous and that is good for them and for all of us.