Below is one of the many letters from American servicemen published by Taranto. I recognize every bit of what the writer says. My own time in the Australian army was of no importance at all (though I enjoyed it greatly) but the one thing it taught me very clearly was how many high quality people serve in the Armed forces
I am your now stereotypical top-of-class full-ride law school graduate veteran. I secured all sorts of jobs that seem to indicate intelligence, working in various sorts of litigation with a major defense firm. Now, I am in senior management and am an equity participant in a multinational construction firm. But 20 years ago, I was a private in the United States Army.
A graduate of the Special Forces Qualification Course, I met many bright people in the Army. I met people who were extremely intelligent. I met people with vast stores of wisdom. I met them in higher concentrations than in any other setting I have ever experienced. I met them on equal ground, wearing the same uniform, obeying the same oath. And now those people are spread across all dimensions. My comrades who stayed in, those who left, my grandfather who is now dead but who once shared admiration for my military accomplishments and I for his, my father who gave me his silver jump wings to wear when I graduated jump school more than two decades after he did--we all share an experience that, to a person, is deeply felt and sincere. And this experience does not have one damn thing to do with "opportunity" when opportunity is defined as money.
I think the representative must have misspoken. He must have meant that those who forgo "opportunity" to serve should be treasured assets who should be carefully and reluctantly deployed. This would have supported his argument on Iraq. And even if we disagree on the practice, we would agree on the premise.
But generally, there is the notion that the military is nothing but underclass idiots. Sure, they can deploy thousands of miles away and coordinate military assaults that are so precise and so technically driven that relatively small concentrations of our troops can defeat an entire nation's organized army in days. But still, they are manipulated idiots, according to the popular theory. This is wrong. Even if you disagree with the president's decision to attack Iraq, or more wisely the implementation of our plan after military victory over the Iraqi army, this does not mean the troops doing the work are idiots. Most of them are not; many of them are quite smart; almost all of them are decent folk who understand that the concepts of freedom and justice must be secured on the ground if they are to be real.
For me the service of my father, my grandfather, even General Washington called me to serve too. I wanted to earn the right to be in the same class of people as these men. Money could come later, when the important things were done. I have never, ever regretted that choice.
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