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Anti-Military Folks are People, Too

“Everybody who goes into the military is stupid,” a fellow student told Marine infantryman Scott Hakim. “That’s why they joined the military instead of going to college.”

In a recent NBC News story about anti-military bias on US college campuses, Hakim recounted how he heard these words in class at Rutgers University.  Being a Marine vet, the guy pretty much considered it a challenge before the whole human race that he was not gonna lose. Cue epic rock ballad by Queen.

The anti-military student failed the test.  Hakim earned the top score.

“I guess I proved her wrong,” Hakim said. “It wasn’t a me-versus-her thing, more like: Maybe now she realizes how idiotic her statement was.”

Hakim is the only student to be surprised by anti-military bias. Although colleges are doing their best to attract GI Bill dollars, anti-military sentiment does pop up from time to time on campuses.

The new anti-military bias isn’t like the anti-Vietnam war protests and marches organized by Students for a Democratic Society in the Sixties. Instead, anti-war sentiment in the 21st century is more likely to take place classroom discussions, in conversation, or anonymously online.

Personally, I was appalled to run into anti-military sentiment in my grad school classes. I had one class on war and media in which we spent the entire semester reading about the evil that military men do.  Not a class went by in which someone did not mention the way we “privilege” the military.

And me, being me, I had to put up that fight.  It was a fight in which I was the only participant.  No one else in the class thought any part of their anti-military sentiment was in dispute.

Since I was raised military, married military and work military, this was a real shocker to me. I thought we Americans all pretty much agreed that our military members were—if not heroic—at least hard workers.

Instead, my classmates seemed to think that military members and their families were the poor downtrodden who had no other choice but to enter the military.  They saw the military as sort of the Dickensian workhouse of our times. They thought military members were stupid.

Whaa??  When I protested, one of my professors asked me to examine what there was to learn in this situation.

That other people are idiots was not at all what she meant.

Instead, she meant for me to look up and see that there were a lot of people in the world who did not agree with me on the subject of the military. Some of the research and opinion on military was so off-base it was ridiculous. Yet some of these anti-war writers were relevant, thoughtful, enlightening.  Their scholarship shaped my thinking about the military.

No wonder I consider my encounters with anti-military bias as one of the most relevant parts of my education.  Seeing the haters in all their glory on campus let me know that they exist in the real world, too. I didn’t know that.

When we put together programming and when set budgets and when we hire civilians to work with military members, we have to know that some of the participants will be philosophically anti-military.

Not everyone will be on my bandwagon with me.  That is no reason to be bitter.  No reason to try to convince everyone to believe what I believe.  Instead, I’m with Hakim.  I pretty much consider bringing the best I have to my education and my profession as a challenge before the whole human race. Cue Queen.

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.