Archive for April, 2009

ROTC at Marquette University

April 1, 2009

Please read this essay before reading mine, because I have responded to this piece:

Both articles are long, but I hope you enjoy!

A response to Bob Graf’s essay, ‘To Make Peace, Stop Teaching War’.

Since I was a freshman at Marquette, I have always seen our ROTC program as an influential and positive presence on campus. When I pass groups of men and women dressed proudly in their military garb, I cannot help but ponder the words of Vegetius, an ancient Roman military writer, “If you want peace, you must prepare for war”. Construed narrowly, “prepare for war” means to build up strength with weapons and man power, but construed a bit more open-mindedly can mean something quite different.

According to Mr. Bob Graf’s essay, Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking does not seek to remove the ROTC program from our campus, but instead seeks to ban “teaching military values on campus” while still recognizing ROTC as an “academic program”. It seems counter-intuitive to forbid teaching while simultaneously tolerating an academic program. This would reduce Marquette’s ROTC, the Reserve Officer TRAINING Corps, to a hallow entity, prohibited from educating its members with the very values it seeks to promote.

Mr. Graf’s essay continues to call the four departments of military science that teach war and military values “immoral” and criticizes Marquette’s lack of control in regulating the departments’ curriculums. I personally cannot imagine a private university having the authority to exercise its own discretion over any other United States military training program, so I cannot understand how the ROTC program is any different. Members of Marquette’s ROTC program are, at minimum, eighteen years old. Those students certainly have the capacity to exercise their own discretion in choosing which classes and educational methods coincide with their personal morality. Marquette’s ROTC program is not forcing any students to take classes regarding war and the military, just as the College of Business cannot force Engineering students to take an accounting class, and the College of Arts and Sciences cannot force Nursing students to take a political sciences course. Students active in the ROTC program are voluntarily taking classes regarding war and military values, classes that will prepare them for situations that a future military officer will certainly encounter.

Futher, Mr. Graf insinuates that Marquette receives federal funding based solely on the fact that it is a base school for the military in this region. I feel this was meant quite negatively by Mr. Graf, but I see it in a different light entirely: by allowing discerning adults the convenience of fulfilling their ROTC training on-campus, Marquette receives federal funding that helps the university as a whole. That is certainly more reason to allow students, who have made a free choice to participate in ROTC, to train on campus. It is a direct benefit to all others at Marquette!

Abortion is the next point (?) that Mr. Graf introduces to his argument and states that teaching war and military values on campus is identical to allowing a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on campus. Mr. Graf fails to recognize that the Catholic Church has a completely anti-abortion stance but does not take a similar “zero tolerance” stance to war. Following Mr. Graf’s logic, every ROTC student should also know how to perform an abortion as well as have one performed on him or her. In a similar vein if we were to follow through with Mr. Graf’s argument, our Gay-Straight Alliance should be banned from Marquette; the Walgreens on 16th Street should no longer be allowed to sell condoms or fill prescription oral contraceptives; and a Muslim Prayer Room should most certainly not be allowed in the AMU on our Catholic campus!

I ask all who have read his essay to not be bought over by the shock value of comparing Marquette’s ROTC program to the practice of abortion on our campus. The logic is faulty and the reasoning, circular. The ramifications of such an argument could also be more far-reaching that the ones I have mentioned above.

At his essay’s conclusion, Mr. Graf directs us to Dorothy Day’s quote, “It is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” Many have clearly chosen not to judge Marquette’s ROTC program by its actions, which, over the past few years have included hosting a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters event, organizing vast participation every year for Al’s Run, and planning fund raisers for those currently serving in the military or for families with relatives in service. Even more insightful is this letter from an MSOE director who wrote to Marquette in January of 2009 about an ROTC cadet who helped an elderly man who had fallen outside in the snow, while other students passed by unaffected: “As if appearing out of nowhere, a young man dressed in fatigues ran up and caught the man before he hit the icy sidewalk, and lifted him gently back to his feet.  He probably saved that man from breaking a hip, or worse…I just wanted to say that, while it’s one thing to volunteer to serve to defend your country, it’s quite another to live your life – moment to moment – in service to others…I think it might be nice for you to know the kind of character your students display when they think no one is watching.”
( The actions of this cadet speak volumes about his care for humanity, despite (or perhaps, because of) his understanding of values and the guidance he has been provided through the ROTC program.

Additionally, a friend of mine in ROTC (name withheld) has taken time to show me some of the things he has learned while in the program. He is taught essential customs and practices of Middle Eastern Cultures. He learned basic phrases and how to behave so as to show respect and kindness while in a foreign land. According to a lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army (name also withheld), military values include loyalty, respect, selfless service, integrity, and personal courage. “Preparing for war” as I stated earlier, does not simply mean preparing for violence. It includes an understanding of other cultures and promotes health of mind, body, and spirit. Perhaps most importantly, preparing for war involves preparing to end a war as quickly as possible, particularly through abiding to those above-mentioned military values that some seek to tear from Marquette’s ROTC program.

Absolutely regardless of whether the war in Iraq is just or unjust, men and women who choose to serve in the United States military deserve the proper education to survive in a new culture and should not be forced to go somewhere else to get it. We are engaged in a war in which human beings are dying by the thousands, and yet many are trying to justify banning the teaching of military science on campus, as if that will decrease death-toll and increase safety. The way I see it, sending a Marquette student, a well-rounded individual who has developed in the tradition of cura personalis, can only be of great help in ending a war, rather than extending it.

As students of Marquette, we are called to be “men and women for others”, something ROTC cadets embody with their very lives. I challenge all who seek to ban war and military values from our campus to see what kind of individuals are produced by our ROTC program and additionally to learn a little more about what is really embodied by these military values.

Jacqueline A. Keidel