DEAR ABBY: Regarding the mother of the twins who have a current fascination for the U.S. military ("Cleveland Mom," Feb. 25), I must reply. As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1974-84), I am deeply grateful for the opportunities, training and mentoring I received under the great NCOs and officers I served with. Lessons they taught me have directly contributed to the success I enjoy today as a manager in a Fortune 500 company. Their leadership, professionalism and pride in a job well done have been examples I will follow for the rest of my life.
Your advice to visit a VA facility and discuss the sacrifices that may be required by our service members is sound. I would also add asking the recruiters they talk with to arrange meetings with new service members to get a more realistic picture of the day-to-day life in whatever service they're interested in, and to look at each service thoroughly.
The parents' concerns are real. Today's military members are more likely to be deployed to an area of conflict than in times past. I would hope that if the twins do decide to join after all this information is presented, the parents would feel a sense of pride that they have raised two children who want to serve their country in an honorable profession with fantastic people who deserve our praise and total support. -- WES M., GLEN ALLEN, VA.
DEAR WES: I heard from many readers who felt my response to "Cleveland Mom" was somehow disrespectful to people serving in the military, and taking me to task for not advising her that trying to encourage her children to carefully consider the decision was unpatriotic. I would like to go on record as saying that I fully support our troops and our veterans. However, I strongly feel that anyone who signs up for military service should understand all the realities beforehand. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: You should know that public high schools are now required to provide contact information for all students to military recruiters. This was a provision of the "No Child Left Behind" act. In my community, parents may opt to have their child's records withheld by filling out a form at the time the student is enrolled in high school.
I do not want anyone from any organization recruiting my minor children without my consent. Stories are rampant about military recruiters giving misleading information and using forceful recruitment efforts. Once my children are of age, they will have the education and maturity to investigate and evaluate the information for themselves. Until then, it's my job to be the watchful parent. -- TROY IN FREEHOLD, N.J.
DEAR ABBY: When I joined the Navy in 1973, I was a college freshman, aimlessly going to school. Vietnam was waning, and it was with my parents' blessing. Today I have a college education (paid for by the VA) and a wonderful family and career made possible, in large degree, by the life education and training I got in the Navy.
Yes, men who served with me were killed and maimed, but our highways and industries do the same thing every day. Abby, your answer wasn't wrong -- just one-sided. I can't imagine my life without eight years in the military. -- MACHINIST'S MATE AND PROUD OF IT
DEAR READERS: Stay tuned, because there will be more on this subject tomorrow.