A week ago, we went to the annual ball of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in Washington. The Society is one of the wonders of America, a totally voluntary organization that helps Marines and Sailors and their families when things get tough. They raise money for education, organize family support, provide assistance for wounded warriors, and tend to needy parents, widows and widowers.
We were worried that the economic convulsions would decrease the level of support, but the Society had a record-setting year, which suggests that, whatever the political change, the American people know that we have the finest military ever, and that our warriors are uniquely worthy of all that we can do for them. We’re going to get some of the details of the new defense budget early next week, and the rumors are alarming, so it’s good to see that popular support is strong.
Defense Secretary Gates gave the major address of the evening, along with the Chief of Naval Operations and the Marine Commandant. Gates had to pause several times to stop from crying, notably when he compared his experience as a university president with his current obligations. On campus, he was dealing with kids in tee shirts and backpacks. Now he’s got men and women in uniform, and it’s clear that he understands that he is dealing with superior people. I suspect that this realization came as a surprise to him, as it does to many non-military leaders who find themselves working alongside our armed forces.
As usual at these events, I was struck by the absence of media stars and intellectuals. Going through the list of sponsors and attendees, I could not find a single major university, newspaper, magazine, or broadcasting network or even station. And yet, many of the chief honchos of such organizations will privately brag about their friendships with military men and women, and, perhaps especially in Washington, you’d be surprised at the number of such people whose children have quietly put on a uniform and have served, are serving, or will soon serve in harm’s way. So where are they?
Shame on them all. When the publisher of the New York Times contends that the future of his newspaper has the same moral standing as saving lives in Darfur, one can only groan at the moral blindness that seizes so many American elites. If he and his ilk understood what makes this country great, he’d have sponsored a table, or at a minimum insisted that his Washington office purchase several tickets to this wonderful event, where even the music is outstanding.
Today we drove to Annapolis to attend the retirement ceremony for a great Marine officer, a full colonel who has fought on three continents. He got a sendoff that you and I can only dream of, from letters of praise from his military and civilian commanders to words spoken by his Marines along the lines of “if my son had to go into combat, I’d want them commanded by you, sir.”
No politician, no editor, no professor, no captain of industry, not even a brilliant blogger, will ever hear anything like that. But they should support those rare men and women of valor who do.
So we’ll rendezvous next spring at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Ball. Right?