Forming a Military Conscience
I was in ROTC as an undergraduate student here at Xavier during World War II. I was in Patton’s Third Army in Europe and also in the Philippine Islands. I have a Combat Infantry Medal from the 86th Black Hawk Infantry Division.
Recently, some students from ROTC dialogued with students from Dorothy Day House. In the 1990s, Scott Jackson got the highest award in ROTC and also the Peace Studies Scholarship.
My vision is for a world in which law replaces war. In the meantime, we need international peacekeeping forces in areas such as Israel-Palestine to help replace violence with democratic international law. Even in areas of violence, we need to observe the Hague Convention, the 4th Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international and moral law.
In the Challenge of Peace, the U.S. Catholic Bishops clearly spell out moral standards for a just war. I would hope that Xavier ROTC students would be selective conscientious objectors to service they decided was contrary to their conscience. Recently, 350 Israeli Army Reservists decided in conscience that they could no longer serve in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
Hopefully, Xavier will help all students to form their conscience on war and peace issues.
—Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J., Director, Xavier Peace and Justice Programs
As an Edgecliff alumna, Class of ’59, I have long felt little or no connection with Xavier and have for some time objected to the use of slick publications to market the University. The current issue, Spring 2002, was particularly objectionable. The cover, depicting a battle ready young woman, was certainly not “reflective of the entire Xavier community” and most certainly not representative of the Edgecliff values that were so formative in my life. Glamorizing combat troops stands in opposition to our Christian mission of peace. I cannot imagine Christ depicted in such a way and fail to see the power behind the image as anything more than sensationalism capitalizing on current marketing trends that use patriotism for monetary gains.
Since I consider this magazine a waste of resources, ecologically as well as financially, and now, more than ever, a matter of conscience, I ask that you please remove my name from your mailing list.
—Janet Claire Frank
Missing the Issues
I have read the different articles regarding the ROTC program and four alumni’s role in our nation’s response [Spring 2002]. I have a few comments.
First, to limit those “fighting terrorism” to those involved in military combat is naive and ignores the root causes of terrorism. Secondly, there are numerous alumni who are working for peace and justice throughout the world, including the Middle East, whose contribtutions are lacking in this issue, and almost all of your alumni profiles.
Third, we are Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning in which conversation regarding appropriate responses, including the just war theory, passificism, conscientious objection. These are the issues which should be discussed in this magazine, not the pro-military stance it seems to have taken (see photos). I am not anti-military, nor am I making a comment on the appropriateness of the U.S. response. But this is the issue which should be at the center of a university magazine.
Fourth, the issue you missed was the relationship between the Peace and Justice programs and ROTC. Father Klein’s quote spoke to the heart of the issue, which you ignored for, dare I say, a fluff piece.
Fifth, and finally. It is shame that this is still called Xavier magazine. It is no longer a magazine and has not reflected any substantive thought in several years. This has become an alumni newsletter.
—Brian Doyle BAU ’94
Like the insubstantial, glossy alumni magazine itself, the “Leap of Faith” cover story about Xavier’s ROTC program was all glitter and no gold. I searched in vain for some acknowledgementas to the androgynous-looking photo of the collegiate soldier in warpaint on the cover. Who was/is s/he? If it is a woman, she is all dressed up with nowhere to go. She will not be permitted to fight alongside the Xavier boys who seem so anxious about the possibility of combat.
Not to worry, guys. In today’s military, only the tiniest percentage of you will ever see combat. And, as indicated by the statements of the grads serving in Afghanistan, they will more likely be killed by massive “friendly” overkill, than by engagement with the armies of “the axis of evil.”
The article’s title suggests these student-warriors are faith driven. Yet, there is not a single mention from any of these students of their being guided by faith in opting for the military.
And what of the faith and morals of the University’s president? In a Mr. Rogers-like admonition, Father [Leo] Klein cautions, “They should be very responsible army people.” May I humbly suggest that the president’s primary responsibility should be to the Gospel?
If there was no defending the fact that all of us undergraduates were forced to do ROTC in the 60’s, the sin is compounded in the present day, when Xavier is among only a handful of Jesuit colleges still taking money from the same institution that helped kill Jesuits in Latin America in the 80s.
There may be some rationale for a modest post-Cold War military establishment, but a Catholic university betrays its mission and its God by underwriting it.
—Jim Luken ’66
(Editor’s Note: The woman on the cover is Joanna Brown, who is mentioned in the story. Also, Leo Klein, S.J., is vice president for mission and ministry, not the University president.)
War & Peace
Having read the “War & Peace” article in the Winter 2002 issue of Xavier, I felt compelled to respond. While I believe [Father Kenneth] Overberg’s statement is far more relevant than that of [Adrian] Scheiss, even the former’s analysis has the major flaw of not addressing the primary cause of terrorism against the U.S.: the policies of our nation, in the interest of multinational corporations, which attempt to control other nations.
This problem in our foreign policy has probably also been true of many other nations which have been superior econmically and militarily to their neighbors. But now the stakes are much higher, since the world is a virtual neighborhood, and our nation seeks to use its awesome power to control the labor and natural resources of the rest of the globe.
But this is more than a matter of American power; it is also a problem of people all over the world suffering, as is partially illustrated by the deaths of thousands of people in Central America and over one million people in Iraq due to U.S. policies. An unending cycle of violence lies ahead unless cooler heads prevail. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “We must develop a world perspective.”
—James A. Lucas
While I certainly appreciate the benefits brought forth by the $81,000 generated in parking ticket revenues last year [“The Boot and the Booty,” Spring 2002], the article fails to address the real underlying issue—the need for more student parking on (or at least near) campus.
Service and Pride
I would like to thank you for the well written article regarding the ROTC program [Leap of Faith, Spring 2002]. In today’s increasingly violent world, where the ideals of America are under attack, it is comfortable to know that the University is still providing leaders for our military. The ROTC program has always been a point of pride for Xavier, and its graduates have served our nation well. Thanks to them for all they do to protect our freedom.
I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for the recent article in Xavier Magazine [Leap of Faith, Spring 2002]. Having read the letters to the editor, I’m sure this piece has raised some emotions both for and against ROTC and the military service. I am also sure there have been many not printed. One such letter I recently received was from the parents of Bob Rice, an alumni and 2Lt. of XU who was killed serving his country in Viet Nam 14 months after graduation. Their letter to me and the Corps of Cadets stated, “We would deeply appreciate you telling the Corps of Cadets and your staff that there were many who appreciated their choice and service prior to 11 September.” People like that know what sacrifice and service to this nation truly means, and their words of encouragement do nothing but increase the cadets commitment to service.
I, too, think it is important to listen and understand everyone’s views and let people make their own decisions. I am always amazed how “close minded” people can be on certain issues. Bottom line, we live in a country that allows everyone to have their own opinion. I’m just glad there are those who are willing to defend this right and the many other rights many people tend to take for granted.
Again, thanks for your time and efforts developing this piece. I know the cadets appreciated it.
—Timothy R. Gobin, LTC, FA, Professor of Military Science, Xavier University
As a proud parent of Oliver Olson, senior as of Sept. 11, I still gladly receive Xavier magazine. This latest copy, Vol. 9 No. 2, features the ROTC on the cover. Oliver has been in the U.S. Army Reserves since he graduated from Marmion Academy in 1997, and transferred to Xavier from Illinois Benedictine two years ago. After receiving his private pilot’s license in Cincinnati almost three years ago, he liked it so much there in Cincy, he looked into the school, transferred, and has the intention to graduate from Xavier, hopefully.
However, Sept. 11 changed some things and his original timing when he was called up on active duty with the U.S. Army Reserves the day after Sept. 11. The magazine does a great job describing and honoring the ROTC people, but does fail to mention full time active, honor students called up for active service, like Oliver. I hope out of sight does not mean out of mind for those Xavier students now in the midst of serving our country, and carrying guns with live ammo. Not that that is his mother’s dream, but it is a mission taken in the midst of education due to circumstances of war.
As Oliver was excelling at Xavier on the Dean’s list, he is also applying the same behavioral traits in his Military Police Squad 6015 MP, where he is stationed at Fort McCoy, Wisc. The Army Reserves has held a little elected contest for Soldier of the Year Award, and Oliver was nominated by his unit, elected by his squad, then elected by all of Fort McCoy, won a six-state regional election by a regional board of Army judges and leaders, and now will be receiving a national award. He is traveling to Washington, D.C., with his post Commander May 1-3 to receive an award.
You may want to follow up with him and his commanding officers on the details, or watch CNN.
—Nancy Olson, Inverness, Ill.
Filling the Gap
As parents of a Xavier student [Ryan Mulvenon ’03], we want to congratulate you for a consistently outstanding magazine. We have encouraged our children to attend a university away from home in order to foster their personal growth and independence. Of course, there’s a price to pay for the separation. Since our home is in Nevada, it’s tough for us to visit. Weekend trips are out of the question and Ryan gets home only on major holidays. But Xavier magazine helps fill the gap. It brings the school to our doorstep and gives us a sense of involvement. It’s well-written, beautifully designed, wonderfully illustrated and informative. Thanks.
—Steve & Janelle Mulvenon
I am a 39-year-old Xavier undergraduate student. I am taking 16 hours in the summer to graduate this summer. I was appalled to find out that I cannot purchase a cap and gown. I have worked very hard for my degree. I have maintained a full-time job, as well as maintained a marriage and raised three children. This is a big accomplishment for me, and I would like to announce this to the world, to have pictures taken in my cap and gown and send out announcements. However, that is not possible since I am not on “the list.” And since Xavier only has one commencement ceremony, I am forced to come back in 2003 just to hear my name called. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am truly dejected. Maybe this is not important to the adminstration at Xavier but it is important to me.
Read your article [Leap of Faith, Spring 2002]. That’s nothing. Look what happened to me.
I’m class of ’42. Graduated in May. By February ’43, I’m in North Africa. It was the mismatch of the century—us against the elite German Afrika Corps. Rommel and Germany’s finest. No one writes about those early days. I see a field of wreckage, tanks smashed, burning, piles of them. And the shock—they’re all OURS.
Our first battle and over half of our guys are in German prisoner of war camps. All 12 howitzers are gone. We’re a “laughing stock.”
The most arrogant people in the world were those Afrikan Corps. I didn’t know I could hate. But as I wrote, the Brits laughed at us, too. They didn’t think we could hold an ant hill. How do you think I felt? Ernie Pyle didn’t dare write about any of this, but he saw it too.
Also, what is never written was over-aged command. Our FA regiment soon got rid of almost all rank beyond majors. We got a new CO, a West Pointer, age 27.
We went on, learned, and learned to fight without British help. The 17th went on and on without me. I was wounded near Cassimo.
OK, read my story. I wrote a book of them. I call them “Crazy War Stories.”
—Jim Smith ’42, Framingham, Maine
Learning Life Skills
I would like to thank you for your article on Xavier’s ROTC program. As a 1995 graduate of both the university and the ROTC department, I feel a great pride after reading an article like that. I know that the Jesuit Mission is to promote peace, however, until every other country decides to live in peace we need soldiers to defend us. One thing that I think a lot of people don’t understand is that the ROTC department does not only teach about war and violence. They also teach life skills like discipline. I hope that all the Cadre and cadets in Xavier’s ROTC program keep up the good work.
—Chris Martin ’95
After reading several of the letters to the editor about the feature story on ROTC at Xavier, I felt compelled to say my piece on the subject. First of all, the sentiments that were expressed were very one-sided and based on little knowledge. It seems as though people cannot make the connection between being a soldier and being a Christian. Xavier goes to great lengths to convince its students to accept far-left stances on many issues, the military is exactly such an issue. At Xavier, the military is presented in a very negative manner by many professors, specifically within the theology department. I am both a Christian and a soldier. I am firm in my beliefs and I will never become a conscientious objector. I read my Bible and understand the lessons it contains. My faith is at the heart of my existence.
However, what I don’t buy into is all of the “theory” out there that serves only to condemn and ridicule the military. Based on my classes here, the only perspective I have been taught is that the military is an instrument of evil. Personally, I find this stance both ludicrous and weak. The problem stems from people not knowing anything about what they are taking a stance on. To top it all off, the basis of their arguments come from human sources or from inventing doctrine on small sections of Scripture.
ROTC is a big part of life at Xavier. Cadets represent one of the largest groups of students at the school. Why shouldn’t a “pro-military” appear in this magazine? ROTC students are not the majority on campus, but we still have the right to be heard. People do not have to agree with us on all subjects, however, they do owe us the chance to present our beliefs and to be taken seriously. Not every story has to focus on Catholic social teaching as some people seem to desire. This approach would be similiar to a state-controlled media source. I applaud the magazine for having the courage to write and publish the story.