On Thursday at an end of the year award ceremony my son accepted his ROTC scholarship. His award was sandwiched between awards for admirable accomplishments in athletic and scholastics. Yet in a touching display the audience rose and clapped. Even though I know that they rose and clapped in previous years for students who accepted military appointments, the response by the parents, students, and faculty was special to me.
So as my mind wanders off to ponder my son’s future, I am caught by the irony of my situation. Two days ago my son figuratively embarked on his military career and next Tuesday I will speak at my father’s funeral at Arlington Cemetery. For the next couple of days I will reminisce about my father and in particular his military career. I will undoubtedly intertwine my father’s military career, my choice not to pursue a military career, and my son’s prospective career. As a West Point graduate my father and my mother were part of a military community for their entire life. Their good times out weighed the bad times. I can see a time in the future that my son’s military will end and I am hopeful he will leave the military because the pastures greener on the outside. There is much to like about the military but I will be especially grateful if my son and the military fully embrace the century-old ethic spoken of below. In the 1970s I decided against pursuing a military career. I have a different opinion now.
In the 1970s the US Army assessed the damage done to the officer corps by the Vietnam War. It wasn’t pretty. Careerism had largely displaced professionalism. Col. Dandrige Malone, one of the principal assessors, wrote that the Army’s historic code, "Duty, honor, country," had been pretty much replaced by "Me, my [rear] and my career."
The Army’s centuries-old ethic, not to lie, cheat or steal, not to tolerate anyone who does, had come to be honored only in the breach.