At some recent high school graduations, some graduates who served in the military wanted to wear or display that fact but school administration, in some cases, objected. Unfortunately, this attitude by some schools and universities has existed for decades. As a teenager in high school returning from war-torn Europe in the early 1950s and living in Nuremberg, Germany, for three and a half years (1949 - 1953), which had been destroyed according to some up to 75 percent worse than Hurricane Katrina, there were a lot of pros and cons, mostly cons, for universal military training in our high schools and colleges in the liberal press. It would reach its heights in the 1960s when the antiwar protests led to the ban of R.O.T.C. at some of the nation’s universities to include — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Stanford and the University of Chicago.
In the high school I attended in the United States upon returning my senior year, the instructor held a class debate for pros and cons for required universal military training and assigned me the "pro" category, knowing it was the most disliked position and I was the new member in the class. My opponent spent many hours researching the "con" subject . The day of the debate the class was on edge waiting for my "pro" reason for universal military training in the USA. I had jotted down some reasons why UMT should be maintained but did not do any research, just first-hand observations . I told of the time our American High School basketball team traveled the 110-mile journey through Eastern Germany, controlled by the Soviets. We saw the bleak landscape and people struggling to farm the fields with mules, no machinery, as it had been confiscated and sent to Russia.
I told them how we approached the Soviet guard at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin who was dressed in military uniform in boots holding a AK47 machine gun. He was not much older than we were, maybe 17 or 18. His eyes lit up when one of our teammates offered him a lucky strike cigarette. We were not allowed to smoke. He looked at the main guard house and motioned us to the side of the monument and accepted the cigarette.
In the presentation, I mentioned the fact we had one radio station, no television , one military paper and could not drive a car .
I told the class that on May 1 it was Communist March Day and we were told to stay in our residence. I mentioned I had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and it was not until Gen. George C. Marshall proposed the Marshall Plan that Europe started its recovery in 1949 . I also mentioned that Switzerland maintained a small military army prior to WW II and required compulsory training each year. The population there, 18-and-over, had rifles and uniforms in their homes. Adolf Hitler wanted to invade Switzerland but his general staff advised against it as it would cost Germany 500,000 men to defeat the mountainous country.
It was not until a few weeks later when grades were posted that I learned that I had won the debate. We are fortunate we have active ROTC units in our high schools and colleges. The American Legion recognizes these units by awarding medals of achievement. Military strength will preserve the peace .