Skip to comments.Unusual recruits: Ivy Leaguers and honor students are signing up to serve
Posted on 08/19/2005 7:07:58 AM PDT by ZGuy
IRAQ: Comedians and peace moms take note: even as the casualty list grows, Ivy Leaguers and honor students are signing up to serve
As you're reading this, National Honor Society member Caity Swanson, 18, of Audubon, N.J., is likely cranking out one . . . more . . . pushup . . . under the stern eye of an Army drill sergeant at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. Princeton University senior Ross Williams, 21, is finalizing his plans to check out of the Ivy League and into the Marine Corps. And Congressional Award winner Asher Strassner, 18, just shipped out from his home in Houston to Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill.
When Mr. Strassner signed up to begin basic training in August, he had no way of knowing the month would prove a brutal one in Iraq. American forces so far this month have lost at least 63 souls, including three Tennessee National Guard soldiers from the 278th Regimental Combat Team, who died Aug. 14 in a rocket-propelled grenade attack.
Families of the fallen grieve, some bitterly, like Cindy Sheehan, who since Aug. 6 has staged a mini war-protest outside George W. Bush's Texas ranch. Others, like Gary Reese of Ashland, Tenn., grieve proudly. His son, Sgt. Gary Lee Reese, 22, of the 278th, "is the only one from the town to die in the war," Mr. Reese told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "He is someone I'm really proud to be the father of."
Mr. Reese believes "bad-mouthing" the war dishonors the dead. Meanwhile, even as casualties mount, thousands of young people are still signing up to serve, with only the Army and National Guard now falling short of recruiting goals. When widespread shortfalls made news earlier this year, comedian Bill Maher used the occasion to reinforce the stereotype that America scrapes its military from the bottom of the population barrel.
Quota-missing Army recruiters had, Mr. Maher quipped, "done picked all the low-lying Lyndie England fruit. And now we need warm bodies."
Ms. England, of course, is accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And Mr. Maher isn't the first person to suggest that the U.S. military is mainly a refuge for the depraved or desperate. In a May 2003 graduation speech at Rockford College, New York Times reporter Chris Hedges said the nation's fighting forces are made up mostly of "poor kids from Mississippi or Alabama or Texas who could not get a decent job or health insurance and joined the Army because it was all we offered them."
Is the military stereotype accurate? Karl Zinsmeister doesn't think so. During three stints as an embedded reporter in Iraqthe most recent in May 2005the American Enterprise editor-in-chief met farm boys, poor boys, and boys escaping dead-end blue-collar towns. But he also encountered Cornell grads, Ph.D. candidates, and high-tech wunderkinds, and wrote about them in his 2003 book Boots on the Ground.
It was love, not desperation or a lack of prospects, that propelled honor student and all-state vocalist Caity Swanson into the Army: love of language. As a junior, Caity's 3.9 GPA qualified her for the National Honor Society, while A's in Spanish earned her acceptance into the Spanish National Honor Society. She realized she wanted to pursue foreign-language translation as a vocation, and she began exploring colleges that offered a major in linguistics. But though her parents earn a good livingdad Chuck works in the pharmaceutical industry and mom Andria is an R.N.good programs were too expensive.
Then as a senior, Caity, like thousands of American high-school students, took the military entrance exam. An Army recruiter saw her score93 out of 99and called her last December. That's when she learned about her dream school: The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) in Monterey, Calif., the largest foreign language school in the world.
After careful discussion with her parents, Caity enlisted. She's now looking forward to learning a new language by immersion, packing two weeks of traditional college instruction into each day during the year-long course, and learning from native speakers. "The way they teach a foreign language is the way I want to learn it," she said.
She doesn't know which language yetthe military assigns that based on a student's ability and the government's need. But it's likely to be a tough one: Caity blew away the Defense Language Battery, qualifying her to learn any language the Institute offers, including those considered most difficult, like Chinese or Arabic.
With the war on terrorism, and Middle Eastern languages high on the Defense Department's wish list, is Caity worried she'll wind up in Iraq? "Wherever the Army sends me, I'm fine," she said in a June 30 phone interview, five days before heading out for boot camp. "God is in control. Whatever He wants for me, that's what I'm going to do."
Houston homeschool graduate Asher Strassner feels the same way. In February he enlisted in the Navy as a hospital corpsman and signed up for Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) training, a school he hopes will land him a job as a combat medic in Iraq.
"When other people ask me how scared I am, I tell them not at all," he said. "That might seem like the typical teen who thinks he's invincible. But if it's my time to die, I will, whether it's in Iraq or crossing the street. . . . If God wants me to live only 18 or 19 yearsor to be 100it's up to Him."
Asher told WORLD his job is to glorify God, not himself. He seems to have been busy about that task, chalking up high grades and high scores on college aptitude tests. In June, he earned the Congressional Award, an honor Congress established in 1979 to recognize initiative, achievement, and service in young people.
To win it, Asher completed a two-year program: He volunteered for 450 hours in a Houston hospital, learned horticulture and landscaping, became a top-ranked junior golfer, and organized a camping expedition that followed the Texas Independence Trail.
Not exactly your Maher-style military down-and-outer. So Asher surprised even himself when he decided to join the Navy. "Weeks before I enlisted, I never would have considered the military," he said. "My friends were surprised . . . but I didn't think I was ready for college. I thought if I went to college in the fall, I'd end up goofing off and getting bad grades."
Bound for boot camp this month, then corpsman and FMF training, Asher could touch down in Iraq late next year. He's hoping that's where he winds up.
"I have a friend in the Army who just got back and he's always telling us that the negative stuff we hear in the media [about American progress in Iraq] is 99 percent made up," Asher said. "He tells about all the Iraqis who love the Americans. . . . I think that's very interesting. I'd like to see that myself."
Ross Williams would like to see it, too, which is why the Princeton senior chose the Marine Corps, a ground force, instead of a more high-tech but remote branch like the Air Force or the Navy. "It's more personal. You interact more with the culture you're protecting," Ross said. "I didn't want to go into the service looking for a spot where I'd feel more comfortable. I wanted to choose the spot I'll get most out of."
If his resumé is any indication, Ross, 21, will give as much as he gets. At his high school in Oyster Bay, N.Y.a small town he describes as "close enough to New York City that you could smell September 11"he served as student body president and graduated third in his class with a 4.0 GPA. He also earned all-state honors in vocal competition and made the all-county team as a long-distance runner.
Now a Princeton political science major who rows for his school's nationally ranked crew team, Ross had originally been accepted to West Point. "But I was told by a couple of cadets that if I wanted any sort of academic college life, I should go to a different school."
After completing his degree next spring, Ross plans to attend a 10-week officer training course in Quantico, Va., then accept a Marine Corps commission. His grandfather served as a Marine during World War II, and Ross said he also feels a call to serve his country, to do "something I'd enjoy looking back on, something I could be proud that I'd done."
Kudos to you who join up. I hope that your tours were as good as mine all were. Beuno Suerte.
Low-hanging fruit, huh?
No lie there. I often wondered how my Marine Corps would perform with the new generation at the helm. And you know what? They kicked ass and took names, just like they've done since 1775.
The kids of today are awesome and I think that the ONE good thing to come out of the Klintoon debacle was the fact that kids saw the excesses of a slob and his enablers and revolted against it.
Also, I've often wondered if abortion, and the liberals propensity for getting them, has led to a drop in THEIR demographics, while ours climbs.
This has way more to do with it than many are willing to admit.
I work with alot of Veterans, and many of them are BRILLIANT. Sure, there are plenty of average to low average guys, but there are far more smart, bright, and intelligent types in the Military than I ever thought before I met these people. (Figures, back before this, I was a liberal idiot with all those stupid predjudices).
The libs are pushing military service as a way to make the military "more like them". That's sort of like lying down under a steam roller in order to promote socialism....
This sounds like that Goldie Hawn movie where every other word is yuck, or gross or do I have to do it right now????
It shouldn't surprise you. This is the Echo Boom generation, the kids of the self-centered Baby Boomers who want to take their lives in a different and more meaningful direction than simple self-gratification. This is a pro-life generation because they are the ones given life rather than being aborted. It is a pro-marriage generation because so many of their parents needlessly divorced. While their parents' generation fled to Canada and stayed in college for 8 years to avoid service, these kids won't.
What I really meant to say was that if these are not just isolated cases then my faith in the nation is restored.
I have no doubt that the Corp can find people, that really does not surprise me. I am surprised to see Ivy Leaguers of the current day go into to any of the services at all.
That is really not a comment on them - rather it is a comment on the environment which has nurtured.
You can bet that kids like these have had multiple "counselors" and "role models" try very hard to talk them out of this.
BTW, I see where Pataki's kid (his youngest?) took a commission in the Corp this summer. That surprised me. His parents actually look proud about it. Imagine that.
Ever since Americas all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterise them as children. If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, thats her decision and her parents shouldnt get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the Oval Office shagpile and chow down on Bill Clinton, shes a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year old is serving his country overseas, hes a wee child who isnt really old enough to know what hes doing.
I get many emails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound a lot more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly than Maureen Dowd, who writes as if shes auditioning for a minor supporting role in Sex and the City. The infantilisation of the military promoted by the Left is deeply insulting to Americas warriors but it suits the anti-war crowds purposes. It enables them to drone ceaselessly that of course they support our troops, because they want to stop these poor confused moppets from being exploited by the Bush war machine.
As a whole, my generation disgusts me (Boomer freepers excepted, natch.)
Well some of them at least. But I hope are right.
Well some of them at least. But I hope are right.
The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) that everyone must take to get in is normed to the general population, so it provides some indicators of military quality. Scores range from 1-99 and a score of 90 means you have scored better than projected for 90% of the population; a score of 40 better than 40% of the population, etc.
Over the past several years, the Regular Army normally required a score of 31, although it sometimes dipped to 26. In any event, the bottom 25-30% of the population in the US has not been eligible to join. Further, through last year, over half the Army's recruits had scored over 50 on the AFQT very year since the 1980s, so on the average we've been getting people of above average intelligence for quite some time.
That was great. Thanks.