Marine Corps Scandal Shows the Need for Praise But Not Worship

Our brave men and women in the military deserve great honor, but must also live up to higher standards…

On Wednesday, Freedom of Information records revealed that a Marine had to withdraw from bootcamp because of second- and third-degree burns on his buttocks. During training, a drill instructor forced the recruit to do physical training in bleach and then stay in that wet uniform for hours.

It was so bad that the doctor said it “liquefied” his skin. This is a horrible incident that is part of a growing but still small trend. It shows the need for Americans to better critically assess military members instead of relying upon hero worship.

An all-volunteer military and small number of soldiers means that a relatively small number of people do most of the fighting, and Americans want to value and celebrate that.  But many Americans don’t quite know how, which results in almost uncritical praise. Military members receive discounts, profuse thank-yous while in uniform, and celebrations at sporting events. This is pretty good, and much better than athletes who kneel during the anthem. But a real celebration of the military means having clearly articulated beliefs about foreign policy and being active in supporting politicians who will create a military that will implement that policy.

Members of the military reflect the society from which they are drawn and should face the same scrutiny when they possibly make mistakes.  The abuses suffered by this Marine cannot happen and were rightly denounced and criticized. The Marine officials court martialed the responsible drill instructor and sent him to prison.

They are not reflective of the entire military, yet they are sometimes facilitated because of a culture of hero worship from the public. A healthier view that would help prevent these instances would be to thank them for their service, but also realize they represent society and exhibit a variety of behaviors, and their behavior and role in society should be critically assessed without fear of being labelled weak on defense or hating the troops.

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