On Wednesday, Gen. David Petraeus retired from the United States Army after 37 years of service. If anyone has seen a picture of the four-star general, his chest full of medals and ribbons immediately calls for reverence. Recently, I sparked an interest in the military, developing a new fervor for the men and women in uniform. My interest stems from my experience at my boyfriend’s graduation from The United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School (OCS) this past summer. I spent a week in Quantico, Virginia, as an overwhelmed observer. I had not seen so much camouflage in one place other than Bass Pro Shop or country music concerts.
For the first time, I witnessed men and women my age fearlessly receiving face-to-face confrontation from an authority figure the size of actor Vin Diesel or a Spartan warrior. I watched the candidates practice the graduation processional for about two hours and I was amazed by their presence. Their respectful obedience was incredible. Every movement was precise, sharp and direct. Each platoon acted as a team of future USMC officers taking every step count-by-count and breath-by-breath together.
Growing up in northeast Ohio, I never had a direct relationship with a member of the Armed Forces. All I knew about the military was from the news or a discussion in my high school history classes. I was naïve to how operations were run or how sergeant instructors transformed boys into men, as the saying goes. Embarrassing as it is to say, I couldn’t even tell the difference between the services. I knew what I chose to accept about the military.
Living in a post-Sept. 11 world, I always supported the efforts military personnel made overseas but I never felt any direct connection to the men and women making the efforts. To me, the military was a distant force that protected me because I deserved it as an American. My American rights entitled me to have a special force dying for my rights to go shopping, dance ballet or attend an all-girls private school. I couldn’t fathom the idea of having individuals I knew and loved actually make the decision to join such a force. But the reality is I do now. I have friends and loved ones intentionally planning to join a branch of the military for six or more years for the sake of defending this country. Looking around campus, we see a number of classmates dressed in uniform on Tuesdays and Thursdays to remind us that the military is close to home. Yet why do so many still know so little about what our peers have chosen to do?
Currently, the nation’s debt burden has impacted our historically unmatched military. The Pentagon and Congress are preparing to reduce the defense budget by $400 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Associated Press. The demand to lower defense spending is a paramount issue and each branch is preparing for the blow. This means our military will be smaller, purchased materials may be cheaper and weapons, tanks, aircraft, ships, etc. may decrease. The budget cuts have intensified inter-service rivalries and finger pointing as each branch tries to explain its necessity to the country said, Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment to NPR on Aug. 25. America’s current climate is asking Americans if they believe the military is still relevant. It is true that there is controversy revolving around the government using the military to push political agendas. Oftentimes, this leaves Americans feeling abused by the national powers.
To further my interest in the military, I am taking a journalism capstone this semester called, “Military and the Media.” Thus far we have learned to identify over 40 military acronyms (if anyone knows me they know that I hate acronyms) and how Dwight Eisenhower’s level-headedness and intuition led to a successful World War II. But something that resonates with me is a lecture given by Ret. Naval Captain Richard Dubberly. He told my class about his “Helmet Theory.” Basically, if you buy a motorcycle, you have choices on helmets. You can either buy yourself one based on quality or price. You even have the option to not buy one at all. The point is if you find yourself in an accident, you can’t change your mind on the decision you made. You have the helmet you chose.
This relates to the military because once our financial decision is made and they are in combat we can’t go back and change our minds. Even more startling, Dubberly revealed is that in a 2005 study only about 24 percent of American men and women are eligible to join the military. Heath issues, obesity and drugs are reducing the amount of suitable servicemen and women. I know that many people have opposing views on our military but the way I see it like this: men like Gen. Petraeus, Capt. Dubberly and the men and women who graduated OCS this summer have made a choice to defend us. I think we should defend them too. Ultimately, it’s the government that needs to ensure American that fighting in wars has an absolute gain and intention. No one wants our loved ones risking his or her life for unjustifiable reasons.