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.
The liberal elites show their ignorance of all things military when they say that enlisted personnel are the bottom of the barrel. During my army career I served with many enlisted soldiers who were college graduates. Some of them had advanced degrees. They all had different reasons for serving, but they had one thing in common: they were outstanding soldiers.
The military-ignorant elitists have probably never heard of the Defense Language Institute, located at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Military personnel, BOTH OFFICER AND ENLISTED, are sent to DLI to learn foreign languages, which they will use in various military occupational specialties. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines study Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, and many other languages. It takes intelligence and mental stamina to last through the language courses, some of which last a year or more. On top of that, the soldiers have to keep current in their basic soldier skills while going through their language courses. I doubt if Bill Maher and his goofy Hollywood friends could make it through the first day.
I also believe that abortion is working for us
Much much more abortion are done by Libs sluts than Red Americans galls
Seems like the demo rats want to do that again to get rid of the societal rejects.
Leftists love to stereotype our military with the Losers label. Like these kids my elder son is very bright (95 percentile on ACT, etc) has a BA in Computer Science and is finishing the Navy Nuke training Sept. 18th. I am proud as punch of his decision and his achievement and could not have selected a better course for him.
Have I mentioned I despise Leftist liars and their enablers/defenders in the RATmedia?
Chicago's mayor Daley's oldest son, Patrick, has just finished Special Forces boot camp. He had just received his MBA from the University of Chicago (a license to print money particularly with his family connections) and had his father's approval to take this step.
These cases may not be so isolated.
That's too broad a generalization. I'm a so-called "baby boomer" and I've done nothing to kill people nor ever voted for anybody but conservatives since my first election when I voted for Reagan.
Conservatives tend to see individuals first. Liberals however tend to have groups as the unit of discussion. Let's leave the pop sociology group think for the other side.
Agreed. I would like to see an objective study on the liberals kids who are raised in permissive homes vice disciplined ones and how they end up. A quick glance at the kids of the limosuine liberals in Hollyweird shows that they end up living pretty poorly. Rehab, rehab, and more rehab.
I did not know that, this case is particularly surprising to me.
naaah. that's where they get comedians. a visit to any comedy club will prove that.
You have every right to be proud of your son. He sounds like a very intelligent young man, the kind who will go far in the Navy.
Two years ago Miramax released a film with the title of "Buffalo Soldiers." The film was set in Germany at the end of the Cold War, and portrayed soldiers as criminals, high-school dropouts, and drug abusers. It was all a lie. I know, because I was serving in Germany at that time. Our soldiers were honest, well-educated, and drug-free. On top of that, the film hijacked the name of a proud group of African-American cavalry troopers who served on the frontier during the Indian Wars. Fortunately, the American public was not taken in by the garbage, and the film died a quick death at the box office.
I would love to see Bill Maher and a platoon of his Hollywood friends try to make it through basic training. Any bets on how long they would last?
One thing I've noticed - every other generation seems to have the same convictions. We had the 'greatest generation' in WWII vets, then we had guys who were serving in Korea, and then in 'Nam, (regardless of the Media creations), who served their country in all the various forms admirably. We had the hippies in the 60's, and the punkers of the 70's, but it seems the generation I'm from (born in 70), seem to have remembered to join up, and we did pretty well in the Gulf War, Panama, and the like.
Now, the generation "after" mine, appears to be harkening back to my parents, which is nice to see. I TRY to live like them, with their ideals, (they weren't very counter-culture/hippie back in the day). I just worked with alot of the young Army guys with 4ID and 3rd ACR, and they are (for the most part) bright, dedicated, conscientious group of 18-25 year olds I can think of.
The media still portrays everything as a "DOOM AND GLOOM", because they feel that's what 'sells'. But ya know what, it ain't that way anymore. People are tired of hearing about some dumba$$ who shot 3 people at the local mall, or stole a truck and made a 100 MPH highway chase. People want to hear GOOD news. I predict if the news shows would do stories about GOOD things happening in the world, not the death, rapes, thefts, etc, their ratings would be higher than the 'regular' crap.
A guardsman at work returned this past spring from a year in Iraq as member of some kind of recon group. Kinda tough on a family where the breadwinner brings home about 75k a year only to drop down to military pay.......Mortgages, insurance payments, bills and kids don't get put on hold while a soldier is pulling active duty.
I'd like to see him say that to their faces!
Yep! The libs are victims of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Why is this unusual? Lefties are wrong about everything else. Why would they think smart people wouldn't know what's at stake?
That's correct, AFAIK, anyway. I scored a pretty respectable 74 on my ASVAB, but I knew many folks that scored in the 90's. I knew enlisted folks with a couple of degrees, as well, and I'm talking about E-3's and E-4's. My score seemed to be pretty average, to be honest.
I felt like a virtual idiot compared to those folks. :)
Godspeed to each and everyone of them. Truely the best this country has to offer.
"Is it safe to say that Bill Maher is the equivilant of diseased pig vomit? Punk."
Bill Maher is yet another of a growing group of arrogant, despicable toads who suck blood from America while vilifying her and her good citizens. I would gladly wrap my hands around his pencil-thin neck and shake him up.
Reading this article and the sentiments of these young people tells me that God continues to bless America. They do us proud!
Thanks so much for posting this.
"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."
As you know, it's not the kids that make the USMC what it is, it's the USMC as an institution largely unaffected by or susceptible to current PC culture that makes the kids into who they become. Unfortunately for America, the US Army, Navy, and Air Force were subjected to full-blown Clintonism from which they are now recovering, albeit slowly. I have great hope they will eventually shed the baggage of PC and return in general to their core business - killing the enemy and breaking his things.
Thank you so much for this inspiring, uplifting post! God bless these young people, and thanks to them.
One wonders that such faith, honor, strength of character, and dedication to service can not shame the likes of Bill Maher and his leftist cohorts into seeing themselves in contrast.
God's blessings on Gary Reese, of Ashland, TN, and his family, who lost son Sgt. Gary L. Reese of the 278th, on Aug.14, in a rocket propelled grenade attack in Iraq.
("He is someone I'm really proud to be the father of.")
Millions of your fellow Americans are proud of him too, Mr. Reese.
Agreed. For another persepctive, I suggest Linda Robinson's outstanding book on the US Army Special Forces, "Masters of Chaos". It shows clearly and unequivocally that even though many of these guys are "country boys from Arkansas", to paraphrase the smooth Somalian gun dealer Mr. Otto in the movie "Blackhawk Down", they are highly intelligent, well-above average men who are highly motivated and driven to succeed at any cost. Too, most are educated, above the national average, in addition to being as fit as any professional athlete -fitter, in fact - and extremely good thinkers on their feet.
"Low-lying fruit", Maher? I think not - you're the only "fruit" in this discussion, and you are indeed "low" and "lying".
I was making a smaller point. I do not doubt that there are high quality people in the service, and I absolutely do not think that to attain this level one has to be from the Ivies or even go to college (I went to a couple of Ivies, and I have taught in them, so I know first hand of what I speak.)
I am just making the point that it is amazing to see people from that background go in, that is all.
And do not get me started about the media...
Kids aren't stupid. They know that social security, medicare, and anything else that was supposed to be there as some sort of safety net is simply not going to be there. They aren't even laying blame for it either - its just a fact and they are going to have to fend for themselves if they want families and any kind of security.
I laugh when government employees and Boeing employees go on strike over pensions. What a laugh. One of these days that popping sound will be their heads forcible extricated from their nether orifices and they will see that the pension died in the 70's.
I wish I could be around to see how history will judge the boomers. They are going to look at that generation as one of the most slovenly, amoral, and irresponsible generation ever. They'll call it a miracle that we didn't incinerate the world through a haze of bong smoke.
You are spot on. As a teacher one thing I've always told my unbelieving colleagues is that the American military is the greatest educational institution in the world. It can take an 18 year old high school grad and in 8 to 10 months give him an education in, say electronic technology, that would require a Masters from Georgia Tech to match. When they ask how this is possible, I respond with one word. MOTIVATION.The military develops it in boot camp and gives the serviceman/woman the understanding that they are capable of excellence and that excellence is expected.
You're right. The young men and women serving today are just as motivated as the fine young men and women I trained and led for years.
As a retired soldier I often go on our local military installation for shopping and other business. The young soldiers with whom I have contact, even just in greeting, strike me as the cream of the crop. They are courteous and pleasant. They are doing themselves, their families, and their country very proud.
Then I leave post and drive downtown, where I see the vacant-eyed unwashed slacker stoners, the ones with multiple piercings, who are going nowhere fast. They are losers, all of them. The young people who are serving their country in uniform are the winners. I only wish I was young enough to get back into uniform and serve alongside them.
Here, here!!! I served in the Army between 76-84, and we had our share of problems. However, I was damn proud of the soldiers that served with me. We were always short of men and materiel, especially during the Carter years, but things got better in the 80's.
Back then, a kid with a high school diploma could write his own ticket as to MOS and duty station. I can't recall the exact percentage, but I had many soldiers who completed their GED in the service.
I know from personal experience that what you say is true.
My youngest daughter was at loose ends without a high school diploma. However, decided to enlist in the Navy, scored well on their tests, and now works on the electrical systems on FA-18's. She received an excellent jump start on her future education.
My oldest daughter had her diploma, but was also at loose ends. She had also joined the Navy, received an outstanding technical education, and is now a radar tech/operator on a carrier.
They both received excellent grounding in electrical theory and a lot of what they've learned will help them down the road.