Letter: The militarization of our children

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We all affect eternity, as we never know where our influence ends. Each generation is called to pass onto our children what is best from the past, while remaining open to new teachings envisioning a world of compassion for all humankind.

Erwin and Reynolds high schools and other local schools include the U.S. Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. On the surface, it reflects sound educational goals in developing citizenship, leadership, self-esteem and team building, along with other goals building military skills.

Personally, I say “No” to the militarization of our youth despite good intentions. We can do better than that with the ideals that reflect peace or at least make war less likely. There are programs with educational goals of building self-esteem claimed by the JROTC; not as glamorous or as exciting as wearing a uniform, but powerful in the effort to bring a better understanding of good citizenship, reconciliation, creativity, empathy and compassion. These ideals emphasize what is best in humankind.

Educational programs throughout the USA address serving the wider community: peacemakers, conscientious objectors and the great thinkers, artists and philosophers — emphasizing the awesome nature of humankind — not a perfect world, but a better world that helps us to respond to the difficulties with a more positive view and faith in humankind.

I’m impressed with the intelligence and insights of our youth. My advice to them is to go to college with the motivation to engage in learning that brings a larger purpose to life than a military career. Read and learn biographies of the giants whose shoulders we stand on.

Change will come from outside politics when we the people demand funding of our schools on a level that goes into JROTC. We can include history, science, the arts and community programs to create an awareness in peacemaking, conscientious objectors and the great thinkers, artists and philosophers who make life worth living, emphasizing the awesome nature of humankind.

— Ed Sacco


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39 thoughts on “Letter: The militarization of our children

  1. boatrocker

    Ha! Late 1980’s we called those types ROTC Nazis.
    The dim bulbs in the lamp for academics.
    They thought books were on the cafeteria menu vs. English class summer reading list.
    Post high school gradumatation they washed out of the military for failing the physical,
    and then we called them home town cops.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • boatrocker

      Oooh, and this one..
      “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”-
      Mark Twain, that guy who wrote those books you’d seek to ban from libaries wrong spelling.

    • Phillip Williams

      “Those types” – indeed. I figured you for one of those folks who carry on about the evils of stereotypes, prejudicial comments, etc…..guess it depends upon at whom such remarks are directed, and by whom they are made.

  2. Stan Hawkins

    Your comment : “that brings a larger purpose to life than a military career.”

    Your expressed goals are reasonable albeit possibly missing, unless I overlooked it, the kind of faith that is stronger and higher than the belief in humankind. While the statistics are hard to find, I did locate a publication that states nationwide approximately 13% of high schoolers participate in JROTC while less than 1% of those go on to join the military. See reference here:


    While you did not explicitly criticize the JROTC program, the content of your article suggest that underlying tone. Why?

    Numerous notable high achievers were apart of this program in existence since 1916; famed collegiate football coach Lou Holtz (highly ethical), African American actor James Earl Jones, successful businessman – Sam Walton, Supreme Court Judge – Samuel Alito, the late Senator Fritz Hollings, former Secretary of Defense – Leon Panetta, congressman – Darrel Issa, and others. See reference here:

    I would say you are on the right track mostly, but there is disagreement on tactics. Why not celebrate the successes in higher – high school achievement and graduation rates proven by JROTC? Why not consider the Interact Club (high school Rotary), or the Key Club (high school Kiwanis), along with sports, debate clubs, and properly teaching US and World History along with Civics?

    You do not give a name to your alternative and that is fine. If your intention was not to diminish the role of JROTC, simply adding to, then I possibly over react. We just celebrated a Memorial Day and my father who served in the South Pacific landing in islands Americans would come to know the names. Thank God Almighty we had brave young men in those days to defend against the aggressors. I pray our youth of today will benefit from a strong military and be spared conflict.

    We should celebrate those “whose purpose in life is a military career.”

    • Phillip Williams

      Mr. Hawkins, I have found that Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Tommy” still rings true over a century after it was written. While it was written about British Soldiers in the Victorian era, the attitudes of certain civilians toward their military forces, especially during peacetime, appear to be universal and unchanging.

      “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that an’ chuck ‘im out, the brute!
      But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country when the guns begin to shoot.”

      Some “ROTZI’s”, as we called them, did indeed enroll in the program to get easy Science and PE credits, but some of them were actually excellent students and well-rounded human beings who went on to become excellent service men and women – and also doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, educators, etc…

      Largely depended on the school and the program – Asheville High’s USMC JROTC program was run some years back by Colonel Alfred Thomas – a 33-year veteran of the Marine Corps during WWII (Iwo Jima survivor), Korea and Vietnam, – who was one of the most complete men to ever walk the earth. His program was actually pretty difficult to get into.

      As for Mr. or Mrs. Rocker’s comments regarding the late Samuel Clemens, I think most of the clamoring to remove his works from school libraries comes from the political Left, many of whom can’t get past the 19th Century American vernacular that Clemens used in many of his stories.

      • boatrocker

        Thank you for inspiring me to blast CCR’s “Fortunate Son” loud on my stereo for re-reading this.
        More timely than ever given a POTUS with 5 military deferments, ‘bone spurs’ and who wants military parades.

        “Oooooo, they’ll point the cannon at you!”- daing, I love some CCR.

        • Phillip Williams

          I didn’t think that this discussion was about the President’s faults or virtues, but rather, about the JROTC program and the students who choose to participate in the program.

          But then again, criticism of the President seems to be the default position for those who can’t think of much else to say on the subject at hand.

          • boatrocker

            Darn, you got us LIEberals again! Curses with your superior logic!
            You’re right- groom your spawn to answer only to the MIC, instead of the Constituion, die in pieces for cheap oil and continue the USA’s trend of not having won a military conflict since 1945 for having a military budget bigger than the next 5 industrialized countries in the world.

            Tell ya whut, those ladies do love a man in uniform!

          • Phillip Williams

            The same theory could be applied across the board – you could truthfully say that all divinity school graduates don’t end up leading Christ-like lives. Or that not all science majors make good scientists. Or that some Rhodes scholars and business magnates can be amazingly less-than-smart where the opposite sex is concerned….

            Mr. Sacco’s article and Mr. / Ms. Rocker’s remarks both seem to indicate that all JROTC programs are either a waste at best or produce an annual crop of goose-stepping paramilitary types at worst – and I respectfully disagree.

          • Peter Robbins

            I said “sort of” relevant — as in maybe-kind-of-a-little relevant. Anecdotes, including yours, are not data and should not be the basis for firm conclusions. But if Stan can cite a handful of successful alums as evidence of a military education’s value, I think it’s fair for boatrocker to point to one big failure — particularly when that clinker holds the power to do more damage than any other human alive.

            I also didn’t read the letter as being as extreme in its criticism of the JROTC program as you did. But I do agree that its wrong to the extent it implies bright high-school kids should reflexively recoil at the idea of military service as a career choice. Most people would say it’s a pretty high calling.

          • Phillip Williams

            Did you read Mr. or Ms. Rocker’s very first comment? I don’t think he was “implying” anything there – he was making a statement – and he was not pointing to “one big failure”:

            “Ha! Late 1980’s we called those types ROTC Nazis.
            The dim bulbs in the lamp for academics.
            They thought books were on the cafeteria menu vs. English class summer reading list.
            Post high school gradumatation they washed out of the military for failing the physical,
            and then we called them home town cops.

            The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

            Don’t know how many ways a feller should be expected to interpret that…..

          • Phillip Williams

            Furthermore – a JROTC program in a high school like Erwin, Asheville, TC Roberson, etc – is not a “military education” really and truly. Unless the student is attending a genuine military academy or prep school, the JROTC that Mr. Sacco is referring to is a High School elective.

            Wearing a uniform once a week and studying drill and ceremonies, land/sea navigation, military history and Flag etiquette for an hour a day and possibly signing up for drill team or color guard hardly transforms a kid into a lean, green fighting machine or brainwashes them into Hitlerjugend.

            I make no claim that my statements are “data” – they are only opinions and personal perspectives – but I don’t believe that Mr. Sacco’s provide much detailed documentation or research either. Where are his numbers that point towards a broad “militarization of our children”? Or does he give any figures on how much is spent on a high school JROTC program as opposed to any other core or elective program?? Or how many students sign up for these programs – and how many subsequently join the Service – and actually make it a career??

            While Mr. Sacco’s letter perhaps does not project “extreme criticism,” it does come across as maybe borderline hysterical – conjuring up images of Nuremberg-esque rallies with thousands of JROTC cadets carrying banners and holding torchlight parades.

            Ah well – at least he is polite – unlike Mr. or Ms. Rocker – who just swings in on a vine like Tarzan and calls people Nazis and incompetents. BTW – did the Rocker take a sabbatical ’til recently? I hadn’t seen him or her for awhile – at least not under the same nom de plume.

          • Phillip Williams

            And again, Mr. (thanks for the clarification) Rocker, above and below, vividly illustrates my points regarding his discourse.

            Rather than try to engage in a meaningful discussion, Mr. Rocker prefers to strew insults and inane, cutesy remarks about like rose petals.

            The application of “Nazi” to any American service man or woman – or to those youths who are considering a military career and attending JROTC programs – is about as vile an insult as I can think of.

  3. Lulz

    LOL where do these people come from? Too many have went to college and they can’t pay off their loans. But when you went, government wasn’t paying for it. And it was AFFORDABLE.

    The disconnect between these old people and today is unreal.

    • Phillip Williams

      Mostly from Elsewhere, I guess…..I notified by email that Mr. or Ms. Rocker has made a reply to my comment below but it is apparently awaiting moderation – my guess is that it is a criticism of my grammatical usage and how I suggested that the US military forces lead or should lead the country…..

  4. Phillip Williams

    Perhaps, Mr. Sacco, you don’t think the United States needs military forces or men and women to lead them? Sometimes the inspiration to live a life of service to the Nation comes on at an early age. I don’t agree with your blanket statements regarding the “militarization of our youth”.

    Enrollment in Junior and Senior ROTC programs is voluntary and only a fairly low percentage of students sign up – and an even lower percentage go on to military careers.

    Perhaps some JROTC units were a joke and a waste of time and money, but Asheville High’s USMC JROTC unit consistently received national attention while under the leadership of Colonel Alfred I. Thomas, 1922-2005. The program during the years COL Thomas ran it provided opportunities and starting points for many young folks who might not have had a future otherwise. http://1stbn4thmarines.net/vnvets/colthomas/obit.htm

    • boatrocker

      Last I checked with that pesky Constitution, the military does not ‘lead’ the country.

      But nice with the admission of JROTC being a “joke and a waste of money”.

      And last I checked, it was the far right who wanted Twain’s works out of school libraries for his
      abolitionist leanings that were not very popular in his home state of Missouri.

    • Stan Hawkins

      Thanks for the introduction of this publication. No doubt the author walked in his own shoes unknowing to many of us what that experience is. What then……….

      One wonders if he would have had a different perspective after December 7, 1941, or of learning that millions of citizens were being slaughtered in Europe? One wonders what he would have suggested when the enemy was landing on the shores of Carolina planting a “rising sun or swastica” flag in the sands of Kitty Hawk?

      We could have marched, waved signs, wrote editorials, and struggled with our identities all the live long day. Yet, history tells us that we need the few, the proud, the noble, and the grit of character to resist appeasing the immoral.

    • boatrocker

      Ah, Penley, you refer to the late 1930’s American military and free market capitalist/war profiteers-led failed coup d’état attempted by Prescott Bush, Henry Ford and the MIC against FDR in order to cash in on Hitler’s rise to power. Yea, that was a really classy period in American history. Not.

      Yea buddy! Reading and a free press is still fundamental!

      And that is also why the military should always be treated like a rabid dog on a semi-broken chain.

      • Phillip Williams

        Ah – the “Cocktail Putsch” of 1933….which I don’t believe ever made it past the “wild scheme” phase – most of what is known about it was based on Butler’s testimony as he was allegedly approached by the schemers to lead and direct the military aspect of it….

        It would have been interesting to see how the US military in 1933 could have been employed in a National-level coup…6 years later, on the eve of World War Two, Butler’s beloved Corps was outnumbered by the NYPD. And prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, some US citizens and private security concerns were considerably better armed than the average US Soldier or Marine. Nobody was prosecuted, so Roosevelt was apparently a good sport.

        • boatrocker

          Ride it.
          Free Market Capitalists tried to stage a coup 1930’s for FDR an elected POTUS for that pesky
          Social Security that FOX viewers hate hut yet collect on.

          • boatrocker

            hut= I can’t edit for answering the damned phone.

          • Phillip Williams

            Ride what? The fact that a bunch of aristocrats got together and talked about something that was never actually attempted?? Perhaps if MG Butler had gone along with it something might have happened – as it was, nothing did. No shots were fired, no barricades stormed – and nobody went to jail.

            If heading off the pesky Social Security idea was indeed their motivation, it’s really nothin’ to me, baby! Because it happened – and most folks claim it’ll be gone by the time I can draw it….

  5. Jason

    Yes selling our children to the military industry complex is ALMOST AS DISGUSTING AS INDOCTRINATING WITH ORGANIZED RELIGION

    • boatrocker

      Huh, there’s something I can get behind- calling any and all religion a bunch of fairy tales.
      Any and all by the way. Even the Jeeeeesus.

        • boatrocker

          Cracker gospel music?
          Huh, you like that Jesus fairy tales.
          Daing you for me checking this site post-work.
          What happened to all religion is BS?

          Double standard Day!
          Hallmark Cards says see you in Hell unless you
          go you my family’s church and the 1st wife married again.

          • Phillip Williams

            One other thing – I have never, ever said that religion was BS, not Christianity at any rate. You must have me mistaken for someone else. I’ve been going Church my entire life – I have questioned my faith at times, and wrestled with it – but I never abandoned or outgrew it. I am glad to say that I am currently a communicant at St. Albans Church in El Paso, TX but at home I usually attend Calvary Church in Fletcher.

  6. boatrocker

    Hey JROTC Nazis-
    Just for the record, for a late night post,
    I am Mr./Senor/Padre/Pappy/Commandante boatrocker. Not Ms.
    It’s a whitewater boating thing.

    Like when one gets out of the house.

  7. ApePeeD

    I knew some real screwball kids in 6th grade who got turned around by the JROTC program by the time they graduated from high school.

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