The other day a reader had a question about military scholarships…


Another military reader of mine strove to break through Disqus and failed, so she wrote me:

I hope you don’t mind my emailing a comment – disqus and my organization’s firewall don’t seem to like each other.  One of the things the young prospective officer should look at is the length of the obligation incurred by the ROTC scholarship. (Also, how much do you have to pay back if you don’t accept your commission – or for that matter, what happens if you get hurt your junior year are physically dq’d – but I’m sure they’ve looked at that.) So, okay, is the obligated time short enough that you’d get out as a first lieutenant or junior captain and not necessarily have been in a position to enforce policies that you found morally impossible to live with?  If it’s longer than that, is it because you’re looking at a flight contract, wherein you’re possibly not responsible for much more than yourself and your aircraft and its crew?  And then, what are your red lines?

– You’re taking the risk of being ordered to an unjust war, in the first place – that possibility is always there.  Is it a moral obligation for someone under a contract to trash his career and possibly end it in the brig – over a matter of prudential judgment?  We had two popes oppose the Iraq war, but neither of them suggested that Catholics had to leave the US military – nor did any of our bishops.

-Equal opportunity policies – with respect to post-DADT.  You’re going to have to treat your gay troops and their lovers as human beings (which is easy, because they are). They disagree with the Church on at least one issue concerning eternal life, just like most of your other troops and colleagues.  Evaluate them on their professional capabilities without letting those disagreements color your judgment.  This shouldn’t be that hard, if you’re fair-minded and know how to think clearly, and make distinctions between personal and professional.

— DOMA may go away soon, so you may have to help gay couples get their ducks in a row to get family housing on base.  I personally don’t see this as a red line, because people need a place to live. People will commit mortal sins within their dwelling; that’s called being human.  That you know, in particular, the nature of one mortal sin that will undoubtedly take place doesn’t mean you are cooperating with evil by putting them in a house. Your mileage may vary, however, and if you’re looking at possibly being an admin officer, you’re going to be helping people get their BAH with dependents, or base housing, etc.

-Life issues – the way I see it, if my sister gets an abortion, she’s still my sister.  If one of my Marines gets an abortion, she’s still my sister.  The fitrep I write on her will reflect professional capabilities, not her error, as I believe it is – even on a matter of life and death.  But nobody, silver oak leaves, birds, stars, congresscritter, whatever, has the power to make me drive somebody to the clinic.  Nor would they, if I were still a second lieutenant.  Nor would they, if I were a sergeant, and a squad leader, and it was my job to take care of my people a much closer level than officers do.

As far as the religious liberty environment – I see gay marriage eventually taking away dedicated Catholic chapels (there are a few) and maybe chaplains.  I’ve heard that Mikey Weinstein and the Atlantic think that the Army and the Air Force have a huge problem with ‘Christian Fundamentalists’ pressuring subordinates to go to Bible study.  I have heard at second hand of one such incident in the Marine Corps, and I’ve seen a senior officer, at a unit event, say grace before a meal without seeming aware that maybe not everybody there thought there was Somebody to be grateful to.   Nobody has a right to tell you to go to Evangelical Bible study; nobody has a right to tell your people who put NO PREFERENCE on their dogs tags to go to Bible study, or Mass, or any kind of services.  You should try to make sure that people who stand weekend duty rotations have the opportunity to go to church if they so desire.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen a DOD message, or ALNAV or MARADMIN yet saying that because Mikey Weinstein says so, all believers have to keep their mouths shut about their beliefs, and religious speech will be treated like racism.  I haven’t seen anything that makes me feel threatened – except on the internet, which is just the cloud storage for everybody’s id, anyway.   It IS unprofessional and unfair to evangelize your subordinates in a way that puts pressure on them – which might mean, in any way at all, because you can’t tell how somebody is going to react.   Many people believe that nobody should ever know your beliefs (including a retired Viet Nam vet SgtMaj I know who goes to Mass every Sunday, and says he examines his conscience and makes an act of contrition every night).  Again, YMMV.  My office colleagues know I go to daily Mass when I have the opportunity – which I’m grateful to have!

I did send out an all-hands email once, letting people know about Ash Wednesday Mass times on base.  I got a lot of thank-you replies from people who later showed up for Mass; I also got a concerned note from the SJA, who worried that the command might thus be made to appear to endorse the Catholic Church…so  sent out another all hands, noting that the base and the tenant commands didn’t share an email domain, so the chaplains relied on parishioners to get these things out, but that if anyone from any other group that met in the Chapel had a similar off-schedule event, our help desk could send out an all hands for them (I was in the comm section at that command).  My boss was good with it, and it satisfied the lawyer.

So – Air Force climate is going to be a little different from the Marine Corps climate; but so far it still basically boils down to accepting the fact that we live in a really pluralistic society, with a lot of different points of view about personal morality, so treat everybody like a human being, hold people accountable for failings with respect to commonly-agreed upon morality (eg, adultery is still illegal under the UCMJ, and I’ve know 2-3 Marines to be dismissed from the service after non-judicial punishment for it – at least one was still given an honorable discharge, and the others, probably no worse than general, under honorable conditions – so there’s an attempt at balance, and at punishing wrongdoing, but not so that it follows you for life), overlook sins that aren’t sins in the mind of the sinner, judge professional capabilities honestly and dispassionately…  the way the Marine Corps says “love your neighbor” is “know your Marines and look out for their welfare.”  It can’t be much different in the Air Force.  Mission accomplishment is first, troop welfare second – but you’re not going to accomplish your mission if you haven’t seen to troop welfare all along.

In other words, it’s a serious question that deserves serious thought; it’s not an absolute No.  Looking at the comments just now, I think I agree with Skylarke and Laura most – both make very good points about not giving the store away to the secularists (Skylarke) and everybody’s vocation being different (Laura).  I have faith that Stu came by his pessimism honestly, but I don’t share it – for the most part. Knowing what we now seem to know about sexual assault cases, I would discourage a daughter, if I had one, from enlisting in any service.  Commissioning is a different ballgame.

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  • Answer to Disqus and your job’s firewall, if you are working within any major city:
    Cell phone hotspot.

  • 2nd response- I am to the point where I consider the US Military to be a primarily homosexual organization, with what heterosexuality is allowed being hierarchy induced rape, so I will NOT be encouraging my child to join the military under any circumstances.

    I will be urging him to serve society in other ways- one career he has expressed an interest in is fireman.

    • Mike Duff

      Things can get pretty frisky on cold nights in the Firehouse, FWIW

      • ‘Round here, the only firehouses are in the big city. The majority of firefighters in Oregon are volunteer, and carry radios, pagers, and cell phones while on duty but not fighting a fire.

        • kenofken

          So as long as men find their sons the “right” ultra-masculine profession, and one without communal living arrangements, none of them will turn up gay or have to deal with gays. That would explain the total lack of gay truck drivers and cops and machinists and construction workers….

    • kirthigdon

      Sad but true. Those who think that the rape culture is only serious enough to warrant discouraging a daughter’s enlistment should consider that according to the Pentagon, more men are raped than women. They should also consider whether they want their sons in a culture where so many are committing rape and getting by with it. Being a victim is a physical evil, albeit a severe one. To be a perp or to enable or cover up for perps is soul-destroying evil.
      Kirt Higdon

    • Fr. Rob Johansen

      Theodore wrote:

      “with what heterosexuality is allowed being hierarchy induced rape…”

      Sorry, but this phrase is so badly written that it is literally indecipherable. I gather that you are alleging that rape is being tolerated by the military brass, but that is just a guess based on the words themselves, not the actual syntax.

      Please clarify.

      • S. Murphy

        put a hyphen between hierarchy and induced, and it’ll make at least syntactical sense.
        Ted, don’t believe everything you see on teh interwebs. My 5 closest neighbors in the right-off-the-base community where I live are: 3 married couples (I use the term in the traditional sense), one with 3 kids, one trying to have kids, and one with kids from prior liaisons and two
        divorced heterosexual parents. Heterosexuality is alive and well in the military, and always will be, for the same reasons it will be in the rest of society. That there are activists on behalf of LGBTQ concerns won’t change the relatively simple biological reality that most people experince.

  • George

    Great comment and advice! I also like the image of the internet as cloud storage for the collective Id. 🙂

  • Barfly_Kokhba

    “If one of my Marines gets an abortion, she’s still my sister. The fitrep I write on her will reflect professional capabilities, not her error, as I believe it is – even on a matter of life and death. But nobody, silver oak leaves, birds, stars, congresscritter, whatever, has the power to make me drive somebody to the clinic. Nor would they, if I were still a second lieutenant. Nor would they, if I were a sergeant, and a squad leader, and…..”

    ….not yet, anyway. But we all know it’s just a matter of time.

    • kenofken

      That’s the exact rationale used for every pre-emptive war and war crime and genocide and eugenics program ever carried out. “It’s only a matter of time before they come for us, so really, anything we do is just regrettable but unavoidable self-defense.”

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Did you really just compare pro-life objectors to eugenicists? Is that really the apt comparison in this topic?

        • kenofken

          It’s apt not because they’re pro-life objectors but because of the demonization tactic which is at the core of the Religious Right’s persecution narrative in this country. That narrative says that anyone who doesn’t toe the religious line and exercises their legal right to do so has an evil agenda.

          Gays, secularists, soldiers who just want to be left the hell alone to do their jobs and follow their own conscience, these folks never want these things for their own merit, according to the RWNM party line. It’s all a calculated agenda of aggression and evil.

          Gays don’t want to get married for the benefits the rest of us enjoy. They want to do it to destroy our benefits. Lesbians don’t want to adopt kids for the same reasons any of us might. They want to do so to mutilate them through gender reassignment surgery to produce political statements and lifestyle accessories. Soldiers who don’t want to be illegally harassed by command are really just angling to drive all Christians out of the military. Strange given that most of the victims of harassment are also Christian, but there you have it.

          Their existence and culture are an arrow aimed at the heart of decent society, and so to indulge their demands for equality and legal standing is to court our own destruction. The persecution narrative employed by the RWNM, and more broadly by the conservative culture war apparatus in the U.S. is no different at all than the rationales employed by eugenecists and hate groups throughout history.

  • kenofken

    This poster brings a sensible voice to the issue, pulling back the lens to a wider view that gives the true molehill/mountain perspective of the difficulties of military service versus the manufactured controversy of the RWNM.

    Reading her assessment really highlighted something else about the RWNM: Nobody on this planet has less confidence in the power of the Christian faith than do they. The Religious Right has absolutely no faith in the power of their own religion to stand on its own two feet in a plural society and marketplace of ideas. The same faith that survived Nero’s arena and communism can be brought down by the end of DADT, the rhetoric of one man and demands of workplace professionalism. It cannot survive unless we have the imprimatur and coercion of government to let us harass non-believers and legally disadvantage them!

    I wouldn’t invest the warm spittle-filled dregs of a Keystone Light in an idea or religion which I felt had so little organic strength. Nor would I have much confidence in a warrior who feels an existential threat from Mikey Weinstein or the existence of gays.

    A Christian woman with the street cred to do so just told the Religious Right to grow a pair! THAT made my day! 🙂

    • Barfly_Kokhba

      “The demands of workplace professionalism,” indeed. And surely just coincidence that ‘workplace professionalism’ is always the precise excuse given for the worst atrocities in human history.

      “We’ll be drone-striking village children and torturing prisoners, while your fellow soldiers and shipmates are aborting their children and your roommate is putting pictures of himself and his ‘husband’ on the barracks wall, but you just keep your head down and your mouth shut like a good workplace professional, or we’ll court-martial you for being too vocal about your Christian beliefs.”

      Bad moon a-risin’

      • S. Murphy

        None of the problems raised here is actually solved by NOT being in the military. Our society has moral blind spots, especially for ending lives not represented by PACs, or that impinge on the Freedom to F—.

  • kirthigdon

    Sort of interesting that the anti-militarist commentators here are being damned as religious right by the pro-militarist, pro-secularist, pro-gay commentator. It confirms my suspicion that right and left have long outlived their usefulness as indicating what anyone’s political or social positions are. And pro-life objectors are comparable to eugenicists, advocates of genocide, advocates of pre-emptive war and war criminals? Why am I not surprised? I’ve been called a terrorist by feminists because I oppose abortion and by militarists because I opposed attacking Iraq. All you have to do to earn the terrorist label is to oppose killing people.
    Kirt Higdon

  • S. Murphy

    Mark, thanks for posting my comment. There were a lot of interesting replies to this and the original thread. I hope the reader who asked the original question got some use out of it.

  • Great comments from the military reader. I appreciate her insight and your offering her a forum.