Monday, December 19, 2016

Who WILL Fight Our Wars? People of Color


My youngest son Nigel is a very proud member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) chapter at McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa.  We went to a military ball on Friday night for his chapter and two other chapters in nearby York and Reading.

More than 100 students and their families attended the event which concluded with a really tough drill and ceremonies competition.  Looking around that room, I saw mostly Hispanic boys and girls. Of the 100 or so students, about 75 were Hispanic, 15 were African-American, 8 were Asian and two were white.

These students are training to get a head start into College ROTC programs and become military officers.  Nigel said ten of the students in his chapter are Hispanic, three are African-American and three are from Nepal.  No white kids.  There are three girls in the program, all Hispanic.

At both ends of my career, during the Vietnam War and in Iraq, the active duty military is overrepresented with Hispanics and other immigrant groups and African-Americans.  During the Vietnam War this was the natural result of rich white kids getting deferments while brown kids went in their place.  In a volunteer military, combat service is a fast track to citizenship, or a to job training and college.

Since the Vietnam War and draft dodging became the norm for those with enough money, the American military has had more men and women of color than the population in general.  My son's JROTC program shows the trend is continuing.

The young people at the military ball are tomorrow's military leaders.