About a month ago, I attended the commissioning of a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. The day before his commissioning, he had graduated from Harvard. He didn’t come from a military family, and it wasn’t financial hardship that drove him into the Armed Forces. Don’t tell John Kerry, but he studied hard in college. After his commissioning, this freshly minted United States Marine returned to his Harvard dorm room to clean it out.
As he entered the dorm in his full dress uniform, some of his classmates gave him a spontaneous round of applause. A campus police officer took him aside to shake his hand. His father observed, “It was like something out of a movie.”
A few weeks after his commissioning, the lieutenant sent me an email that read in part:
I remember when I was down at Quantico two summers ago for the first half of Officer Candidates School. The second to last day I was down there–“Family Day,” incidentally–was the 7/7 bombings. The staff pulled us over and told us the news and then said that’s basically why they’re so hard on us down there: We’re at war and will be for a long time, and the mothers of recruits at MCRD and at Parris Island right now are going to be depending on us one day to get their sons and daughters home alive.
When I was in England last week, I talked to an officer in the Royal Navy who had just received his Ph.D. He was saying he thought the larger war would last 20-30 years; I’ve always thought a generation–mine in particular. Our highest calling: To defend our way of life and Western Civilization; fight for the freedom of others; protect our friends, family, and country; and give hope to a people long without it.
It is surely a measure of how far we’ve come as a society from the dark days of the 1960s that things like military service and duty and sacrifice are now celebrated. Just because Washington and Hollywood haven’t noticed this generational shift doesn’t mean it hasn’t occurred. It has, and it’s seismic.