Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Long Crimson Line - Harvard and the Military: Saluting Our Nation's Newest Officers

On occasions when a particular Blog post seems to be a good fit for both the White Rhino Report and The White Rhino Partners Chronicle, I will post that article in both places.

This piece appeared earlier today in White Rhino Partners Chronicle.

The Long Crimson Line - Harvard and the Military: Saluting Our Nation's Newest Officers

I have just returned from Harvard Yard, where four members of Harvard College's Class of 2013 took the Oath of Office to become officers - two Marine 2nd Lieutenants, One Navy Ensign and one Air Force 2nd Lieutenant.  Congratulations go out to the following:

  • USMC 2 Lt. Brian Fuey of Portland, Maine
  • USMC 2 LT. Gavin Pascarella of Corona, CA
  • USN Ensign Colin Dickinson of Garden City, NY
  • USAF 2 Lt.  Courtney Diekema of Holland, MI
Also honored was Midshipman Christian Yoo of Bronxville, NY, who will be commissioned at a future date.

The ceremony was poignant in a number of aspects.  On the one hand, Harvard University and the military have had a long tradition of partnership gong back to the days of the Revolution.  Monuments abound on the verdant campus to Harvard war heroes - on both sides of the River Charles and the bridges that span the stream. On the other hand, in the fervent anti-militarism that arose on many college campuses during and after the Vietnam War, Harvard expelled the military from the campus - denying ROTC and military recruitment from taking place within the ivied walls.  In the past few years, the pendulum has slowly swung back to a more balanced position, and with the steady encouragement of Harvard alumni who have served their nation as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, ROTC is once again alive and well at Harvard.  Much of the credit goes to the courageous stand of Harvard's 28th President, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust.

Dr. Faust was present at today's ceremony - her presence and words offering a signal indication that Harvard women and men who choose to serve their country in the military are once again held in high esteem by this hoary institution.  In her very moving remarks, Dr. Faust quoted liberally from a commencement address that had been given in 2011 by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.  Here are some of Admiral Mullen's words which Dr. Faust shared this morning:

"Yes, you all understand quite well the sacrifices demanded by military service. 
What I am suggesting is that we in uniform do not have the luxury anymore of assuming that our fellow citizens understand it the same way.  Our work is appreciated.  Of that, I am certain.  There isn’t a town or a city I visit where people do not convey to me their great pride in what we do.  Even those who do not support the wars support the troops. 
But I fear they do not know us.  I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle. This is important, because a people uninformed about what they are asking the military to endure is a people inevitably unable to fully grasp the scope of the responsibilities our Constitution levies upon them.  Were we more representative of the population, were more American families touched by military service, like that of the Hidalgos or the Huntoon families, perhaps a more advantageous familiarity would ensue.  But we are a small force, rightly volunteers, and less than 1 percent of the population, scattered about the country due to base closings, and frequent and lengthy deployments.
We’re also fairly insular, speaking our own language of sorts, living within our own unique culture, isolating ourselves either out of fear or from, perhaps, even our own pride.  The American people can therefore be forgiven for not possessing an intimate knowledge of our needs or of our deeds.  We haven’t exactly made it easy for them.  And we have been a little busy.  But that doesn’t excuse us from making the effort.  That doesn’t excuse us from our own constitutional responsibilities as citizens and soldiers to promote the general welfare, in addition to providing for the common defense. We must help them understand our fellow citizens who so desperately want to help us."

Dr. Faust went on to add that because of the fact that our military constitutes only 1% of our population, most of us do not understand the burden that our veterans bear - the full price that they pay for having served us and our nation.  She issued a challenge for each of us to do more than merely saying a perfunctory: "Thank you for your service," to our men and women who have served, but to dig deeper and to find concrete ways to offer help in facing the challenges of re-entry into the civilian world.  She also took time to share brief stories of some of the women and men currently studying at Harvard who are veterans, including current students at the College, Law School, Business School, Kennedy School and School of Medicine.

Once the new officers had repeated their Oath of Office and received their Commissions, they presented Dr. Faust with a very symbolic gift: an engraved empty cartridge shell of very large caliber - perhaps a mortar round.  How fitting, for surely she has been on the receiving end of plenty of flack and "friendly fire" for her vocal support of welcoming the military onto the Harvard campus once again.

It was a wonderful days for our nation, for a storied university and for the families and friends of the new officers.

Serve with honor, my friends!

Al Chase

No comments: