Sunday, August 13, 2006

AWOL: a book you need to read

Among the unsung heroes of any war are military families. Some time ago I saw the author of a new book being interviewed on television. Frank Schaeffer, whose father's books about religion and worldview I read in college, talked with the wife of a military chaplain about his new book AWOL, which he had co-written with Kathy Ross-Douquet. General Tommy Franks wrote the foreword to the book and Senator John McCain writes a glowing note of approval on the cover. Schaeffer is a Republican; Ross-Douquet is a Democrat who actually worked in the Clinton White House. This is not a book written from the fringe. The book discusses a new phenomenon in American society which has emerged since World War II, and that has accelerated since the Vietnam Conflict: the failure of children from wealthy or politically powerful families to enlist in the military. Five of President Franklin Roosevelt's children seved in the military. Their cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was the only American General on the beach on D-Day. John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph served in the military; Joseph died in action. Today, some private colleges prevent military recruiters from visiting their campuses. Schaeffer began his pilgrimage towards writing this book when his son decided to join the Marines rather than attend an Ivy League university. Ross-Douquet, after establishing a successful political activist career, married a Marine officer, only to receive sympathetic comments from friends who could not understand how so talented a man would choose the military rather than a civilian career. The book reminds us about the importance of duty and honor in military service, and the potential dangers of having people who have not served or who will not let their children serve make the decision to send less fortunate people's children to war. Both the nation and military suffer when all parts of society are not represented in the military. This is a significant issue; I encourage you to read the book and weigh its argument for yourself. I have served in the active duty and reserve components of the military; I encouraged my children to talk to recruiters. Especially if you support our nation's current military expeditions, have you or your children volunteered to serve? If not, why not? Is it because you have sincere moral objections or do you think your family is too privileged to share in the responsibility of defending our nation?
I want to encourage the parents, spouses, and children of our military members. I've spent a lot of time this summer with military families; their pain, pride, love, and sacrifice stand in stark contrast with some I have met during my travels who had almost forgotten we were at war. A new "greatest generation" is emerging; sadly, too many are opting out. I commend those who who are at least talking to recruiters and telling their grown children to do so. Thank you for your integrity.

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