Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Unusual recruits: Ivy Leaguers and honor students are signing up to serve
World Magazine ^ | 8/18/05 | Lynn Vincent

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 Iraq—the most recent in May 2005—the 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 living—dad 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 score—93 out of 99—and 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 yet—the 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 years—or to be 100—it'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."


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: recruitment; usmilitary
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-50 next last
To: ZGuy

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.


21 posted on 08/19/2005 7:53:47 AM PDT by billnaz (What part of "shall not be infringed" don't you understand?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: highlymotivated

I also believe that abortion is working for us
Much much more abortion are done by Libs sluts than Red Americans galls


22 posted on 08/19/2005 7:54:49 AM PDT by 1903A3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: mark502inf
The last time dregs were accepted was during the a demo rat administration, McNamara's 100,000 when they brought cat IV's in.

Seems like the demo rats want to do that again to get rid of the societal rejects.

23 posted on 08/19/2005 7:56:33 AM PDT by dts32041 (Shinkichi: Massuer, did you see that? Zat˘ichi: I don't see much)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: ZGuy

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?


24 posted on 08/19/2005 7:57:59 AM PDT by justshutupandtakeit (Public Enemy #1, the RATmedia.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: CasearianDaoist

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.


25 posted on 08/19/2005 8:04:12 AM PDT by justshutupandtakeit (Public Enemy #1, the RATmedia.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: dts32041
Unlike the baby boomers, who allowed 2 million plus to be murdered and another 30 years of darkness on the world, aided and abetted by the likes of teddy the swimmer and jimmy the peanut.

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.

26 posted on 08/19/2005 8:06:59 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: 1903A3

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.


27 posted on 08/19/2005 8:08:52 AM PDT by highlymotivated (If American ever falls, a STINKING LIBERAL will be behind it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: justshutupandtakeit

I did not know that, this case is particularly surprising to me.


28 posted on 08/19/2005 8:10:14 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: kb2614
comedian Bill Maher used the occasion to reinforce the stereotype that America scrapes its military from the bottom of the population barrel.

naaah. that's where they get comedians. a visit to any comedy club will prove that.

29 posted on 08/19/2005 8:10:21 AM PDT by the invisib1e hand (see my FR page for a link to the tribute to Terri Schaivo, a short video presentation.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: justshutupandtakeit

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?


30 posted on 08/19/2005 8:11:35 AM PDT by billnaz (What part of "shall not be infringed" don't you understand?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: CasearianDaoist

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.


31 posted on 08/19/2005 8:17:53 AM PDT by Ro_Thunder ("Other than ending SLAVERY, FASCISM, NAZISM and COMMUNISM, war has never solved anything")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: billnaz
They would be whining from the get go as soon as the withdrawal symptoms started. I know of no more loathsome people than the Hollywood "elite" or scum.
32 posted on 08/19/2005 8:21:37 AM PDT by justshutupandtakeit (Public Enemy #1, the RATmedia.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: ZGuy

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.


33 posted on 08/19/2005 8:27:03 AM PDT by Hot Tabasco (What is a homosexual Islamic Jihadist going to do with 72 virgins? Can he give them away?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ZGuy
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."

I'd like to see him say that to their faces!

34 posted on 08/19/2005 8:29:35 AM PDT by SuziQ
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: billnaz
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?

At Parris Island? In the heat of an SC summer? With swarms of skeeters, fire ants, and sand fleas (I shiver in fear), they would not make it past training day 10, IF they even got out of Receiving! It would make a GREAT Reality Show. "Limo Liberals join the Corps!" Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahhahahaah!
35 posted on 08/19/2005 8:32:21 AM PDT by highlymotivated (If American ever falls, a STINKING LIBERAL will be behind it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: highlymotivated
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.

Yep! The libs are victims of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

36 posted on 08/19/2005 8:33:55 AM PDT by SuziQ
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: ZGuy

Why is this unusual? Lefties are wrong about everything else. Why would they think smart people wouldn't know what's at stake?


37 posted on 08/19/2005 8:35:52 AM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mark502inf

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. :)


38 posted on 08/19/2005 8:46:05 AM PDT by exnavychick (I need a new tagline...any suggestions?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: <1/1,000,000th%

Godspeed to each and everyone of them. Truely the best this country has to offer.


39 posted on 08/19/2005 8:50:13 AM PDT by Mane in Virginia
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

To: kb2614

"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.


40 posted on 08/19/2005 8:53:13 AM PDT by astounded (We don't need no stinkin' rules of engagement...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-50 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson