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"Responding to Rangel
'The National Commander of The American Legion called on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to apologize for suggesting that American troops would not choose to fight in Iraq if they had other employment options,' says a press release from the legion:
'Our military is the most skilled, best-trained all-volunteer force on the planet,'
said National Commander Paul A. Morin. 'Like that recently espoused by Sen. John
Kerry, Congressman Rangel's view of our troops couldn't be further from the
truth and is possibly skewed by his political opposition to the war in Iraq.' . . .
'These brave men and women lay it on the line every day for each and
every one of us, for which I am very grateful,' Morin said. 'Their selfless
commitment for the betterment of our world from radical extremists is beyond
commendable. It's time for members of Congress to stop insulting our troops. . . .'
Some of our readers, responding to our item yesterday, took Rangel's disparagement personally. Here is Brian Bartlett:
I have a message for Mr. Rangel; I will not use the term Honorable
with him. At age 17, I had already had seven years of college and university
education for which I had received 3 1/2 years' credit due to the vagaries
of our educational system and I was teaching at the university for those
3 1/2 years as well as working as a professional consultant starting at $40
per hour, a rather princely sum in 1974.
Following family tradition--my mother, father, grandfathers and beyond had all served--I entered the United States Navy nine days after my 17th birthday. There followed an education second to none in various fields of engineering including nuclear. The training was intense, essentially cramming years of engineering into six months, and not very many were left at the end of the school even in my section, the best and brightest. The civilian world has no equivalent; graduate school is a joke by
comparison, and I should know, having been through both.
Despite my disabilities that resulted in my discharge after over 13 years of service, I am subject to recall to this day, and should they call, I will answer willingly.
Unlike, apparently, Mr. Rangel, I know what is happening on the ground over
there, as I have kin there to this day. I have been to the Middle East several
times, and my sister served in Saudi Arabia and Iraq for the First Gulf War. In
my family we serve, peace or war, because that is what we are and what we do.
It's not for money, it's not for the educational benefits after the service,
which in my case were laughable. He can go peddle his contempt elsewhere.
Patti Sayer adds:
I am the mother of a fine young man, an American soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, who risked his life in Iraq for 14 of the longest months of his and my life . By the way, he just re-enlisted for another eight years. I also happen to be the Air Force brat daughter of a Vietnam vet. I grew up in Europe while my father defended that ungrateful continent from attack by the Soviet Union.
My father's brother served on the USS Louisville in World War II, and his turret was struck by a kamikaze during the Battle of Surigao Strait. He was grievously wounded. Another uncle spent a miserable year of service in Korea in 1951. I guess you could say that my family has sacrificed a lot for this nation. So when I hear Rep. Rangel imply, in essence, that my son, father and uncles served only because they had no other economic choices or were too stupid to know what they were doing, I get angry.
As for the issue of the Iraq war, how dare Mr. Rangel denigrate my son and his fellow soldiers as nothing but a bunch of uneducated, patsy, losers, being manipulated by an evil George Bush? He makes their sacrifice appear to be that born of ignorance and poor upbringing, and I am deeply resentful of his attitude. My son is not stupid, and there are plenty of economic opportunities where we live. It is
apparent that Mr. Rangel perceives himself as smarter than my poor dumb son, who voluntarily joined the military and who is honored to serve our nation in spite
of Mr. Rangel's contempt.
And here is Ben Kohlmann:
I think the comments attributed to Rep. Rangel reveal not only the mindset of liberal policy makers in relation to the military, but also their view of what I like to call "duty to the self." Those that achieve the greatest academic achievement usually tend to be the most self-centered, imagining their indispensability to the world as a
whole. Why should someone give up four years (or more!) of comfort and high
earning potential to be subjected to months away from family, cramped living
conditions, and the legally binding orders of others? In our modern, liberated,
self-centered mind, such a thought is inconceivable.
Much of this is fostered in the academic environment they are indoctrinated into. This view, in and of itself, is at odds with the underlying selflessness that must be present for an effective member of the armed forces. So I don't so much take it as
insulting as revealing a gross negligence in comprehending the true nature of
I am a young naval officer, and for the record, I graduated with
both Latin and departmental honors from a top 10 university. I was named "Greek
Man of the Year" and held numerous leadership positions throughout campus. One
of my good friends, who happens to be a Marine just back from Iraq, won the
freshman writing award at the same institution, and also graduated with honors.
My peers in our squadron's ready room have masters degrees from MIT and Ivies.
My best friend earned a graduate degree from Stanford before his current service
in Afghanistan. My roommate's wife, a Marine signals-intelligence officer,
recently finished up work at Cambridge in chemistry stemming from a Gates
We are all under 26, and had we so chosen, certainly could have
had the "option of having a decent career" apart from the military. I cite these
things not to egotistically promote our individual accomplishments, but only to
show that I personally know the representative is wrong.
He scoffed at our true willingness to fight. Ironically, as an aside, since the beginning of the Iraq war, my only desire has been to get over there and fight, but to no avail,
as my current military obligations have me training elsewhere. Anyway, we fight
because we recognize that the best years of our lives are better spent serving
something bigger than ourselves than serving selfish ends. We fight knowing that
for all the hardship and tears shed over being away from loved ones, the defense
of our Republic, and even the giving of our lives, is far more worthy than going
through life focused on wealth and pleasure.
It is undoubtedly true that to the last, we all would like nothing better than to settle down, have a family, and raise them in peace, being there for every birthday and anniversary. We, too, would like to pursue jobs that pay tens of thousands more per year than we currently receive. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at my friends in law school and other prestigious professions in envy at the "opportunities" they have while I "endure" months of boredom.
But it is also true that there are men and ideologies in the world that would like nothing better than to rip those things away from many in our population who enjoy such blessings. We will not stand idly by and allow that to happen. Our educational and academic accomplishments make us more duty bound to serve the country that enabled us, better than any other, to realize our full potential. These past few years of service have encompassed the greatest struggles and most trying times of my
entire life, but ultimately, that is the cost of defending an ideology of
freedom. Indeed, it is that cost itself that brings true value to freedom.
The San Francisco Chronicle profiles someone with a similar attitude:
If Dr. Martin Holland had his way, he'd be in Iraq right now. In
Fallujah or Ramadi or Baghdad. Up to his elbows in blood and brain matter,
operating on Marines and soldiers with severe head injuries.
As it happens, it's unlikely the doctor will find himself hovering over a battlefield operating table. But he has a strong desire to serve -- to do something for the troops
suffering severe combat injuries. Instead of teaching residents and interns how
to stop intracranial bleeding in San Francisco, Holland is wearing Navy whites
and operating on sailors and Marines in San Diego.
Holland is not an 18-year-old who joins the Marines fresh out of high school. He's 44, and he quit a prestigious job as director of neurotrauma at UC San Francisco. But there are similarities: Both put aside personal lives to enlist in the military.
They also serve who stand and operate.
"When I was a kid, I loved stories about knights in shining armor," he said. "There was something very appealing about the ideals of honor, courage and all that kind of stuff.
"The only thing I saw in the modern world that was even close to that code of chivalry was, one, the military, and two, was medicine with the Hippocratic oath."
It's noteworthy that few if any of Rangel's fellow Democrats have stepped forward to defend his bigoted statements. Further, when John Kerry* said something similar last month, he didn't even have the courage to stand by it and instead claimed to have been talking about something else entirely.
On the other hand, we haven't noticed many Democratic politicians or liberal
commentators repudiating what Rangel said--in sharp contrast to the way
Republicans and conservatives responded to Trent Lott's infamous comments about
Strom Thurmond four years ago. "