The ROTC is booming, writes the Los Angeles Times. Not only have several elite schools ended their Vietnam-era bans on the program – with Yale, most recently, establishing the only Naval ROTC program in the entire state of Connecticut on its campus – participation has increased by 27 percent nationwide over the last four years.
The crucial factor? Changing student attitudes toward the military, the Los Angeles Times reports:
Today's college students, who never faced a military draft and whose childhood memories include the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are more receptive than their parents' generation to seeing fellow students in uniform. Returning veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now enrolled in college also create a more sympathetic, and familiar, image of the military.
Students are certainly more welcoming, but the larger culture has changed, as well. As my AEI colleagues Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg note, the military is the most respected institution in American life. To the majority of Americans, bringing ROTC back to prominent schools is – as the New York Times aptly puts it – “a way to reinforce a simple concept, namely that servicemen and women ought not be treated as pariahs.”
It is also a way to surmount our increasing distance from those who serve. At last week’s Memorial Day service in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke of the “nearly 90 New Yorkers” who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “While each death is mourned,” the New York Times writes, “the number is small enough to affirm that relatively few families in this city have a personal stake in what happens in Iraq or Afghanistan.” New Yorkers respect the service of our men and women in uniform – and a revived New York City ROTC program could help them gain a better appreciation for their sacrifice.