Wednesday, November 15, 2006

West Point, Seen From Manhattan

Everyone entering the military academies now is a post-9/11 volunteer. They've seen the enemy, know who and what he is, and still choose to serve.

The New York Sun has an interesting story about some of the attitudes of those who should know firsthand about that enemy, those who also live close enough to West Point to make a day trip out of it, those who think the military is so beneath them.

It was assumed that, as his mother, I did not approve of the idea, and both my husband and I were sternly warned to avoid all things related to the military. We heard congratulatory words immediately followed by lectures about the evils of war. Mere mention of the words "military academy" brought forth criticism of American involvement in Iraq and the hate-Bush rhetoric that is so predictable in Manhattan. We received reminders that now is not the time to attend a military academy because (as if we didn't know) there is a war going on. Indignant parents reacted as if my husband and I had crossed a forbidden line by allowing our son to apply and go to West Point. Several adamantly declared that if their son or daughter ever got the idea to apply to a military academy, it would be, in these parents' own words, "over my dead body." And, one parent added angrily, only 17-year-olds are "stupid" enough to consider the military as an option.

Antipathy toward the military is often found among people who claim to support our troops but not the war in Iraq. They are sometimes the same people who believe that it is possible to negotiate with terrorists. They are grown adults, friends, and neighbors of mine, who for the past six years have felt entitled to engage in schoolyard name-calling because President Bush challenges the ideology they espouse. They are the "enlightened" baby boomers, the ones who know better and more than anyone else. Along with my baby-boomer peers, I,too, protested the Vietnam War, frowned on patriotism, and scorned the military. But with age, experience, and children, I am beginning to learn that I have been miserably mistaken about some of my long-held beliefs, including my ideas about the military.

I've known more than a few parents whose opinions about the military changed once their children went to West Point. Funny how that happens.


Anonymous said...

How's West Point in terms of academics?

Darren said...

Rigorous. In fact, 15 semester units was considered a fairly light load.

For a school of only 4000 or so, West Point "overperforms" in Rhodes Scholarships, Hertz Fellowships, and the like.

You might find answers to your specific questions at

Darren said...

Hey, look what else I found--a profile of the current freshman class.

It includes SAT/ACT data, high school valedictorians, etc.

Cadet X said...

I would like to point out that the Class of 2009 also entered after the war had begun and we knew full well what we were getting into.

you also forgot USAFA and the lesser USNA

Darren you should know I read this all the sneaking that past me

chair force hooah

Anonymous said...

Cool. Thanks, Darren.

Darren said...

Cadet X: I think your "concerns" were addressed in my first paragraph.

But it's good to know that you still read :-)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if these same parents would object to their children pursuing a career in law enforcement or fire fighting? There are some occupations that are inherently more dangerous than others. However, to discourage someone from practicing civic virtue, even if it is your own child whom you innately want to protect, is unexcusable. Tomorrow is not a guarantee for anybody. Car accidents claim more lives in a year than any occupation.

carol said...

"I wonder if these same parents would object to their children pursuing a career in law enforcement or fire fighting?"

Oh, probably. Amazing how they disdain the most dangerous and important professions, isn't it?

I've come to the conclusion that military service is the #1 Man Test, childrearing being #1 Woman Test. Being a typical self-indulgent boomer, I flunked my own test, but I admire those who put themselves at risk or through endless hassles "when they didn't even have to*. I would never disdain or discourage someone from following either course.

rightwingprof said...

The happiest day in my father's life was when my brother signed up for the Army.

Then, my parents were members of the Greatest Generation, and my father was a WW2 and Korean War veteran.