Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's time: West Point Supe proposes making Alma Mater and The Corps gender-neutral

Phil Carter at Intel Dump reports that West Point Superintendent LTG Franklin Hagenbeck has proposed making Alma Mater and The Corps gender-neutral. The Supe explains, "this inequity first came to me when singing the Alma Mater at the funerals of female graduates killed in action".

The Proposed Changes

Alma Mater
FROM: Guide us, thy sons aright"
TO: "Guide us thine own aright"
The Corps
FROM: "The men of the Corps long dead"
TO: "The ranks of the Corps long dead"
FROM: "We sons of today, we salute you"
TO: "The Corps of today, we salute you"
FROM: "You sons of an earlier day"
TO: The Corps of an earlier day"
FROM: "And the last man feels to his marrow"
TO: "And the last one feels to the marrow"

I agree with LTG Hagenback that it's the right time to make these changes. The Army's and West Point's traditions are so deep because they are etched in the blood and extraordinary honor of our soldiers who have sacrificed in war. During the War on Terror, female soldiers have earned their rightful place in those traditions. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice. It's time.

Read on for my tribute to one of the female West Point graduates who has earned a place of honor in the Long Grey Line - 2003 (Protectors of the Free) grad Laura Walker.

"The Things That Stay Important to Us" by 1LT Laura Walker, USMA 03, who died in Afghanistan on 18AUG05. The essay was found after her death:

It is not called a hardship tour for no reason. The things the American soldier gives up in service of his country, whether in Iraq, Korea or Afghanistan, are unimaginable to the average citizen. When you ask for volunteers to leave their families and friends, the everyday comforts of home, their entire lives, for something that will be undeniably less comfortable, who raises their hand? What kind of person makes that sacrifice? And for God's sake, why?

Though these are questions that have been asked in patriotic articles for years, when I really stop to think about it, it still amazes me. And I'm in the Army. I stare at these soldiers, covered in dust. I watch them day after day as they consistently go without showers or hot food. They deserve so much more. How can they stand it? Sure, they complain. But they achieve so much with so little in a miserable, monotonous environment. What thanks do they get? What keeps them going?

It is incumbent upon us as leaders to spend every waking minute of every day trying to mitigate those circumstances. A yearlong deployment is taking a significant portion of someone's life. We should never face that responsibility callously. If there is any opportunity to make a soldier more comfortable, take it. If you can arrange better communication with their families, do it. If you can make their job easier by getting better equipment or tools, find the damn tools! That soldier works so, so hard. How can we not work equally as hard to ensure their success? To make their efforts worthwhile, and even more so to ensure that soldier has left his post better than he found it for his replacement. Clearly I am not suggesting that you prioritize a soldier's comfort over mission accomplishment. But every day ask yourself, "Am I doing absolutely everything within my power for this soldier?" They deserve no less.

The things that get us through the day at home should stay important to us here. Families, friends, personal comfort, leisure and a support network; these things matter! I don't care what mud-wallowing, bark-eating, pain-enduring faction of the combat arms you are affiliated with. The point is not that we can all endure that sort of life. The point is, why on earth would you consciously impose it on someone who has volunteered to serve his country during a time of war? It is the duty of every single American citizen, and I don't care how sanctimonious I sound, to put effort into providing the very best for our soldiers.


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Blogger delta said...


I saw your comment on my blog with link to the Supe's letter. I had heard of this proposal from a fellow woman classmate, but was not sure it was for real. I would have to say that I agree with the proposed changes. I do not think the original wording was meant to be exclusionary; I think it was written to reflect reality at that time. Just as "Bring me men" at the Air Force Academy is outdated, so are the songs of West Point.

I have long advocated that "Bring me men" should be "Bring me leaders," because they both mean the same thing, reflecting the diferrences in the time periods.

I will NEVER forget as a plebe having to say the Soldier's Creed: "I am an American fighting man."

Yes, we had to say that, even as women, women who had volunteered to serve their country in the same way as all the men cadets. "I am an American fighting man."

I was not an American fighting man. I was an American soldier.

5/19/2008 8:53 PM  

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