Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. Not the same. Not the same at all. Yes, it may have clashing cymbals and all the other trappings of a musical performance, like any stirring march, but there is something missing. A lot missing. Namely, music -- the kind that carries us along note by note, variation after variation, reaching for the heights, then plunging into the depths, or just lulling and soothing us till the next revelation.
At its best military justice, like military music, may only reveal the obvious. But even the obvious has to be spelled out for the military's lawheads by some higher authority. The way congressmen from
And that these soldiers deserve Purple Hearts -- whether that attack took place in the States or overseas, at
Now, at last, those wounded and killed in these acts of war are to receive Purple Hearts, and they and their families the modest benefits that come with the decoration. It's little enough recognition, and it's certainly taken long enough. It's a familiar enough story: When the country finds itself under attack, and the soldier is among the first to respond, he is cheered on. ("Nothing's too good for our boys!") But when the danger is past and nigh-forgotten, he becomes The Forgotten Man.
But an army of conscripts is less an army than a holding pen. Those of us taking ROTC at the
But the visits familiarized us with a lot more: the nature of a peacetime army in the doldrums. The air was heavy with the presence of young men in rumpled fatigues who wanted to be anywhere but there. The language was thick with profanities, the boredom inescapable. Time hung heavy. It was as close to the atmosphere of a prison or an ante-bellum plantation dependent on slave labor as any of us ever wanted to come.
Yes, the country needed a professional army, a proud and proficient force ready to respond when needed -- and it finally got one. But we also created a great divide between those who have served in uniform and those who wouldn't know a howitzer from a ukelele.
That division was going to be avoided by preserving the principle of universal military service, so that professional soldiers would be backed up by the Reserves or
If democracy means an equal sharing of burdens, then an American democracy only some of us are willing to defend has become a sham. Fathers who once had to serve in the military now have children who wouldn't think of doing so. There is a word for that development in a republic: decadence.
Our leaders never seem to miss an opportunity to praise our brave soldiers, posing for photo-ops with wounded heroes, and effusive in their praise for the military. Yet presidents like
The old colonel in charge of recruiting students for the
The citizen-soldier has become the rare exception in American politics. (See Cottton, Tom, Capt.,
Yes, the country needs a professional army, but its members need to have their service recognized, respected, honored. ... Instead, in these cases out of
With the awarding of these Purple Hearts a measure of justice, however small and however long delayed, has been achieved. Let us here and now resolve that no other soldiers -- nor their families -- will ever be treated so shabbily again.