Danny Sjursen, The Nation: I’m Watching My Students Become Soldiers in Our Endless Wars
At West Point, Graduation Day felt more like a tragedy than a triumph.
Patches, pins, medals, and badges are the visible signs of an exclusive military culture, a silent language by which soldiers and officers judge each other’s experiences, accomplishments, and general worth. In July 2001, when I first walked through the gate of the US Military Academy at West Point at the ripe young age of 17, the “combat patch” on one’s right shoulder—evidence of a deployment with a specific unit—had more resonance than colorful medals like Ranger badges reflecting specific skills. Back then, before the 9/11 attacks ushered in a series of revenge wars “on terror,” the vast majority of officers stationed at West Point didn’t boast a right shoulder patch. Those who did were mostly veterans of modest combat in the first Gulf War of 1990–91. Nonetheless, even those officers were regarded by the likes of me as gods. After all, they’d seen “the elephant.”
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WNU Editor: The above author is clearly pessimistic on what these endless wars have brought to America. But I find there is a bigger story that is not receiving the attention that it deserves. Even though the American military is a volunteer force, it still has no problem to attract recruits, even with a booming economy. These young men and women want to serve, knowing too well that they may find themselves in a war-zone and all the dangers that it may entail. There is something to be said about that.