Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why do they always send the poor?

This is a song lyric by a band, named System of a Down. You can probably guess what the song is about. That's right, War. Most improtantly, Presidents declaring war, and poor kids always dying in the wars. I have a few answers and am hoping to get some feedback from former servicemen.

I will start out by saying this, all I ever hear, is that politicians don't have "Skin in the game". Or, rich people never have to deal with this problem. Before I continue, I would like to add this disclaimer, I only have two semesters of community college education. The ideas expressed in this post are not from a highly educated man, but that of a man who has a decent amount of life experience, I great deal of common sense(at least I think), and the undying love for my child.

Poor kids die in war for one reason, they are the most expendible. Before everyone gets their undies in a bunch, hear me out.

Poor kids don't have alot of options. They either come from parents that can't afford to make good choices, parents that make bad choices, or parents who are too naive, or uninformed to guide their children properly.

It seems to me that a great deal of kids who enlist, do so because they see it as a means to a free college education. I'm guessing, a great deal of these kids join the reserves, for obvious reasons. Now, when a war is declared, who is the first to go. I'm not trained, nor have I ever been in the service, but my guess would be that reservists are the first to go. Why? Because they are the most expendible. At least in the eyes of the federal government. It seems that it is a lot cheaper, for a reservist to be on the frontline, than an 8 year Marine. Doesn't it cost alot more to train that Marine?

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, because I'm not. Young men and women who fight and die for this country, including our rights, makes me sad, and grateful at the same time. But it seems too many kids make this choice, without proper input from the most important guidance counsellors in their lives. Their parents.

As for my child. Her college education is taken care of. She will not be forced to choose between higher education and the possibility of giving her life for American freedoms. If she comes to me someday, and tells me that she wants to be in the armed forces, I will do my best to inform her properly of everything, and whatever choice she makes, will make me proud.

So, am I on the right track, close, or completely wrong? Let me know.


  1. Johnny,
    Please don't be offended but that's an old liberal 60's truism that you are retelling. The soldiers that we have today are the most educated that we have ever had and come from mostly the middleclass.

    Never before has the US military had so highly motivated and highly educated amoung their ranks. It is a testiment to their love of country. True, that some apply because they need some structure in their lives but I have never known one that was worse for it.

    For me, if I had to do it over again I would have made a career in the Marine Corps. There is no better service anywhere in the world and no better people. That is simply a fact.

    Sadly, in war there is death but the likehood of getting killed or maimed is higher per capita in Chicago or DC.

    I am certain that you will give your little girl the correct fatherly advice when the time comes. In the meantime you just need to set a good example that she will follow the rest of her life.

    Anyway that's my 2 cents.

  2. Johnny,

    I don't know much about the army. I have an uncle who served 29 years, and a cousin who served 4. But I know about the Marine Corps.

    In many ways, the Marine Corps is a family tradition. When I checked in to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in 1989, the first Marine I ran into was a First Lieutenant Ripley. His father won the Navy Cross at the Bridge at Dong Ha; should have won the Medal of Honor. My company XO was First Lieutenant Lee. His father did win the Medal of Honor. In the course of my three year career, I ran into countless Marines whose fathers were also Marines, both career Marines and one term enlistments.

    I would say the average Marine in my unit was from lower middle income, but we did have a PFC check in in a brand new Porsche. His daddy bought it for him for being his platoon honor man in boot camp (an enviable award all by itself). His father was loaded and told his son he wouldn't inherit a penny without an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. His father was also a Marine, serving one four year enlistment with a tour in Vietnam.

    There are of course, Marines who come from poverty. Check Hardnox's post on Carlos Hathcock. His accommodations in Vietnam were a step up from the house he grew up in. My own father came from hardscrabble roots. I have often told him he must be a coalminers daughter, because his youth sounds so much like Loretta Lynn's.

    As for the reservists being the first to go, there is some truth in that, but not alot. In Korea, we called up the Marine Reserves because post war Democrats cut the military strength so low that we didn't have enough active troops to fight a war with.

    In Desert Storm, we used a lot of reserve units. Some grunt units were used to cover other obligations the Corps had at the time, such as Mediterranean floats to keep an eye on people like Qadafi, and the Somali's, which have been a constant pain in the ass for at least the whole of my life. Some reserve units were brought up because their specialty wasn't something we us all the time, like water purification and chemical decontamination.

    Most people don't realize what Marines and soldiers are doing when there isn't a war on. They're not just sitting around. We have troops deployed all over the world to be ready in case of emergency, and to act as a deterrent to nuts like Muammar and Amanutjob.

  3. Johnny,

    That sentiment has been expressed often. The glib answer to why more poor people die in war than rich people is that demographically there are more of them. However in general military casualties and participation, numbers are roughly in proportion to the economic and racial make up of the society they represent. There is an excellent Congressional Study here:

    However you bring up some interesting points. Throughout history the "upper" or "privileged" class - or whatever you want to call them - have generally felt the calling or the requirement to defend their Nation. During the American Civil War there are many examples of the patrician class willingly marching off to war like Joshua Chamberlain and Robert Gould Shaw.

    I think that we have done the Nation a disservice in the past by granting college deferments that kept the educated or those who could afford college out of the draft. But hey - it's a government program - you would expect it to be f'd up - right? Certainly in this day and age when every one and their dog are going to college, such deferments would be a mistake.

    The service for many is a leg up. My paternal grandfather joined the Navy to get off the farm. He became a trained machinist and after the end of WW I he worked in the Navy ship yard. My father was attending college to be a geologist and dropped out at the end of his first semester enlisting in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor. The Navy trained him to be a radio operator and after the war he pursued a degree in electrical engineering. Programs like the GI Bill opened new worlds for a kid like my Dad from a blue collar home.

    The way we have used reservists over time has changed a great deal. You go to war with the army, navy, air force, and Marine Corps that you have - so those forward deployed, expensively trained, and professional service members often die in the first fusillade of the first battle. The way we have employed reserves have changed over time. The military in some respects have leaned on the reserves for a long war, in other times we have buried the logistics and sustainment pieces in the reserves so we couldn't go to war without them. Bringing up the reserves requires the commitment of the American people as it hits at the heart of a community. The military doesn't ever want a war like JFK and LBJ got us into and making the reserves an integral part of our power projection helps prevent that. Integration, deployment, and level of effort in combat sustained by reservists is a complex subject.

    A citizen today doesn't decide to join or not join based on race, education, or family connections. We have had ten successive years where we filled ALL recruiting quotas while we were at war. I have nothing but the utmost respect for these men and women who volunteer to risk all for their Nation. They joined knowing that they would see combat. These men and women write out a blank check to you and the Nation that is payable up to and including their life without any real guarantee of return.

    We have about 313 million people in this Nation. About 3 million (Active and Reserve) Americans are serving in uniform. Or less than one percent. There are about 26 million living US veterans (about 8 percent). It's now a personal choice to serve - no man or woman is coerced or forced to join.

    Your college fund for your child won't insulate her from the military if she is bitten by the patriotic bug and decides to join as so many of us have. As some can tell you, it also won't guarantee a degree or a useful degree.

    I can tell you this - when we can't find 3 million Americans willing to write that check - nothing else will matter because there won't be an America.

    Hopefully that's a polite way of saying, "Yes, I think you are looking at this from the wrong perspective."

  4. Johnny,

    One more point I would like to make:

    My father was turned down for a third star because he refused to tell the Secretary of the Navy that women should be allowed to serve in combat. His position on that issue has nothing to do with sexism - he admitted that any one of his four sisters could whip ten communists in a fight. His stance is based on the idea that no civilized society should want its women to do the fighting.

    I hope and pray that your daughter never has to serve in combat, as I do for my four daughters. But I hope that my daughters, and yours too, will look on a man that wouldn't fight for his country with disgust and disdain. Not one that didn't, but one that wouldn't.

  5. Gentleman- Maybe my point wasn't clear. I tend to ramble whn I have dozens of thoughts in my head. And it is obvious that my point was not made clear at all. So, I will try again.

    The post came to mind, because I heard that song on the radio the other day, and whenever I hear that chorus, I think of one thing. The Mother in the Michael Moore movie that was crying and protesting in front of the White House. That her son was sent to fight in a war, he never wanted any part of.

    The point of the post was a question, which you all helped answer. But, I can't help but think that their are some kids who are "pushed" towards the military, for the wrong reasons.

    H/Nox- Your 2 cents is worth alot here. I am thankful for your service, and your visits.....

    TGP- I thank you for your service, and your visits as well. As my daughter gets older, and starts trying to figure out future endeavors, I'm sure we'll have quite a few heart to hearts. If my girl wants to serve in the military, I will be proud. I will just make sure she's doing it because she wants to. Not because she feels she has too. And if she goes to combat, well, I would probably turn back towards religion at that point.

    CS- I thank you for your service, and comments. But I do think their may be some parents who push their children into the military, for the tuition assistance and G.I. bill. I'm not saying, these kids made a mistake, or didn't learn valuable skills and discipline. I salute them. I'm basically asking for parents, to stop acting naive and ignorant. It's like my buddy Mike told me. In the Corps, I'm an accountant second. First and foremost, I'm a soldier, here to defend my country.

    As I told TGP, if my daughter wants to serve her country, she will have my support, and love.

  6. Johnny,

    We all understood your point. Such a position is not new. Sons have marched off to war for the entire history of man and now increasingly women are doing it too. Take a quick peak at mortality rates on some jobs like loggers, arctic fishermen, and coal miners who risk their lives merely for money.

    Soldiers, sailors, air men, and Marines feel there is a much higher calling.

  7. CS- Thanks again. I will check out those mortality rates. I will also look into how many parents dishonored their childs memory while protesting the consumption of Alaskan King crab

  8. Johnny,

    A very wise man once said, "There are no atheists in foxholes."

  9. TGP- Don't understand what your statement has to do with the post, but thanks anyway.

  10. Johnny,

    I was referring to your statement about returning to religion if your daughter ends up in combat.

  11. TGP- Sorry for the late reply. I gotcha. She actually has her first Reconciliation this weekend.