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Educating our Soldiers

My “Devil’s Advocate” self is on duty today to make a point.

For a couple of weeks now I have had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the “high level of intelligence” among the members of today’s military. An all-volunteer force, I’ve been told that these people are among the best and brightest to ever have served our country. With the promise of educational benefits, a full pension, health care for life, and a housing and food allowance, there are few personal needs to be concerned about so that our fighting men and women can concentrate on defending our country. Bless their hearts for being willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

But where did these “best and brightest” come from and how did they obtain that lofty title? Were they educated at the elite private institutions revered by the doctors, lawyers, or policy-makers that graduate from such respected proving grounds? A few were but not many of them. Not yet, anyway, until the GI Bill kicks in. Nope —  most of them were educated in our public schools.

I read a statistic that for every soldier that ever sees combat there are 12 others supporting him. Our taxes go to support cooks, medics, truck drivers, administrators, etc. If they devote a certain period of their adult lives to these duties, such support people will receive benefits for the rest of their lives as our thanks for their sacrifice. Even in times of relative peace, their willingness to be ready when called qualifies them for our eternal gratitude for defending our rights. These same people are willing to be yelled at, chastised, humiliated in front of their peers, all in the name of preparing them to be strong enough to do their part for the whole and support the others around them. They understand that the pointing out of their failures means that the man or woman next to them has a better chance of survival.

Back at home in the world they came from there is another group willing to sacrifice their adult lives for the survival of those around them: TEACHERS — the very people who create the setting for these “best and brightest” to develop the character to lead others. Along with parents willing to impart a sense of duty and service to others, these young people come up through a system that teaches them to learn not just for their own sakes but for the benefit of the whole.

And yet, many of us look at these educators and condemn them for giving our children failing grades. We stay up late with our kids to help them do their homework in order to prevent their being humiliated in front of their peers. How many soldiers’ parents walk into the office of a Drill Sergeant and say, “Stop picking on my kid!”

At the ballot box we decide that teachers do not deserve the same respect as our soldiers because they are not putting themselves in harm’s way. But are these people participating any less than those cooks, medics, truck drivers, and administrators who support our soldiers in battle? Did they have any less impact on their ability to survive in the midst of chaos? Were they not the first people to teach our children to think on their feet?

There will always be those who are a drag on the system, whether militarily or educationally, and it will be equally difficult to discharge either without good reason. We will all have memories of that teacher who “damaged us for life” or the platoon leader who screwed up and got half our buddies killed. But the majority of them will be willing to give the best part of themselves to make sure that those in their charge are as prepared as they can possibly be for whatever they face on the battlefield or in life.

I gladly pay my taxes with the expectation that the best and brightest are being cultivated to be better thinkers and more adept communicators so that our soldiers become great diplomats as well as fighters. In order to achieve that end, those preparing them need to feel supported with the same kind of appreciation for their sacrifice.

Today I support our soldiers and our teachers. Where would we be without either?

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  1. Mama Nance
    March 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Though, my all time favorite blog entry will always be the brutal vacuum cleaner crime scene story…this article just became number two. It states the obvious
    and its good to be reminded how important our teachers are. Hat tip to them all. Thanks for your words, I enjoyed reading this.

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