November 3, 2006
One week before the 2006 election, one issue has risen up to dominate headlines across America: Senator John Kerry’s Monday admonishment to students that, “If…you study hard, you do your homework, you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Regardless of his intent at the time – and Kerry, along with many apologists, have attempted to play it off as a “botched joke about the President” – the words, and the message contained therein, are clear: work hard in school, and you’ll be all right; however, if you neglect your education, then you will end up in the military – and thus, in Iraq – with the rest of America’s uneducated, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
Beyond the insult offered by his words to the men and women who day in and day out sacrifice to protect our freedom, perhaps the most glaring error in Senator Kerry’s decision to utter that statement was the fact that it is so utterly – and obviously – inaccurate.
"The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful. The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave, and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology," said President Bush Tuesday, while campaigning in Georgia for Congressional candidate Mac Collins.
And the numbers bear this out. According to a 2005 report by the Department of Defense, over 90% of military recruits have a high school diploma – while only about 75% of their non-uniformed peers do. Further, nearly two-thirds of today's recruits come from our nation's top half in math and verbal aptitude.
A Heritage Foundation report entitled “Who Are the Recruits? The Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Enlistment” went into greater detail on the matter, saying, “Recruits must meet educational standards, and the military provides resources for furthering education to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend four-year colleges. Although rural representation is disproportional, the military offers the opportunity to gain new skills and enter industries that are not available in rural areas.”
The reality of modern military training dictates that the Democrats’ opinions of their intelligence, as stated by Senator Kerry, are not the case. The technical training necessary to operate the state-of-the-art technology today’s military utilizes, combined with the minimum aptitude and intelligence tests and diploma/degree requirements for entry into the uniformed services, make for a fighting force that is far from being undereducated – let alone sub par with regard to intelligence.
As mentioned in the Heritage report, beyond the educational and intellectual requirements for entry, the US Armed Forces are superb about providing an environment in which troops can increase their education levels while serving on active duty. Every military post has an education office which caters to the active duty serviceman, offering courses from various two- and four-year colleges, both in residence and via correspondence, and providing a path to a degree – from Associates to Bachelors to Masters level – in myriad fields. The military also offers tuition assistance funding, which essentially renders enrollment in college courses free of charge.
These benefits are not difficult to take advantage of, either. During my own time in the military, the career field I served in had a fairly high operational tempo, and we spent a good deal of time either in training or out of the country, including a year abroad in Korea. The War on Terror was also raging for several of those years. However, I was still able to successfully complete over 100 hours of college coursework during that time, and at almost no cost besides effort – a testament to the benefit itself, to the user-friendly nature of the system, and, most importantly, to the US military itself, which went to great lengths to emphasize the importance of education, and to establish a ready means of achieving it.
The fact of the matter is that America’s armed forces are composed of some of the best, brightest, and bravest men and women that this great nation has to offer; however, outside of contested election seasons, the Left has never attempted to hide the fact that they hold the military, to a person, in absolute contempt. John Kerry, who in his own defense claimed that he had been “spending his entire career honoring veterans,” is a prime example of this mindset – from his Winter Soldier testimony in 1971, in which he invoked the name of “Jen-jis Khan” to describe our troops’ tactics (and said much, much worse, as well), to this week, when he cautioned students that a lack of education would result in military service.
Clearly, Senator Kerry needs to take the time to educate himself on the nature of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines he oversees as a member of America’s government; perhaps then he would learn that his contempt for those men and women who protect this great country day in and day out is, at the very least, unfounded.
With regard to the rest of the Democratic Party this election season, their silence on the matter is deafening. Every minute, hour, and day that goes by without rebuttals being offered to Kerry’s remarks by Democrat candidates and officeholders across the nation just reinforces even more firmly that which we already knew: that in this case, Senator Kerry speaks for them all.
• Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran who served in Iraq, is a senior at the University of Georgia.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 110306