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ROSE NOLEN: ROTC makes sense, JROTC doesn't

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | 10:53 a.m. CST; updated 6:51 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Advocacy groups are working hard to get the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs re-established in the nation's Ivy League universities. The programs were dropped in the late 1960s due to the protests over the Vietnam War.

I can see how the ROTC's offering scholarships for full college tuition in exchange for periods of active military service would appeal to many college students. Those participating in the Army ROTC agree to complete four years of service. Because the Vietnam protests are far behind us, and recruitment is a problem to our voluntary army, it would seem to make sense to restore the programs to colleges.

What I don't care for is the presence of Junior ROTC programs in the nation's high schools. If we had a nonvoluntary army I could see this as a way of preparing future draftees for military service. But because many of these high school students won't be signing up for the military, what is the point? And because these programs claim not to be about recruitment, why is taxpayer money being spent on them? What is the purpose of students' dressing up in military uniforms and performing military exercises?

And, of course, we're led to believe that all of this "playing of war games" does not unfairly influence students into joining the military. And what bothers me most is that when one of these students does leave high school to enlist and gets injured, the community in which the combatant lives is encouraged to suffer a major guilt trip.

If the ROTC is given the opportunity to have programs in the high schools, it seems to me that there should be a full range of national service programs offered. After all, there are many ways that a citizen can serve his or her country other than by military service. How about serving in emergency-service capacities? In the case of natural disasters, for example, we need responders to serve.

I admit that I am an anti-war person. Violence, as far as I am concerned, is not a problem-solver. Personally, I would prefer that my tax dollars be invested in a national corps of peacemakers who traveled the world's trouble spots negotiating for peaceful settlements. In the long run, I think that would save more lives and money than any violent confrontation.

In any case, my opposition to a voluntary army is based on the fact that it is not a shared sacrifice by the citizenry. There are probably thousands who don't know any person in the armed services. The deaths and injuries of many of our warriors go virtually unnoticed by many people. It's as though the wars have no role in their lives. I think we were a more united country when every family, even the president's, participated in our conflicts.

Some feel that the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law passed in 1993 will benefit enrollment in ROTC programs. And I think without a draft many parents feel that enrollment is fine, because they are confident that their son or daughter will never have to serve. I really think those countries in which every citizen is required to serve in the armed forces are ahead of us on this one.

The ROTC program has been around a long time. The government required that the land-grant colleges it established in the 1860s include military tactics in curriculum. And ROTC graduates make up a large portion of the population of the nation's armed forces.

Advocates for the return of the ROTC programs to institutions like Yale University strongly believe that the school should grant credit for ROTC courses and should be willing to adjust Yale course times so that they do not conflict with ROTC course times.

The groups hope to broaden the base of support for ROTC among Ivy League universities. According to the Yale advocacy group, Yale expelled the military organization from its campus in 1969. They hope to persuade the university to reevaluate its stance regarding ROTC.

If high schools wish to retain the JROTC programs, it seems to me that students who wish to participate should be required to spend a year or two in some form of national service after college. That's the only way these programs make sense to me.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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