“They don’t enter the military at any higher rate than other students, but they do have a very impressive record in getting into good colleges, some of the finest colleges in the nation,” Runcie said. “ROTC is giving them 21st-century skills.”
Even so, some parents confessed to a certain uneasiness at putting their children on a military track at a time when 85,000 American troops are still fighting — and dying at the rate of one a day — in Afghanistan.
“Does that worry me a little?” Pisut asked. “Yes, it does. But I know that the school’s idea is not to shove them out the door into the service. And I like the core values: citizenship, patriotism, a sense of right and wrong, the value of the Constitution. I like the rigor and discipline, which I didn’t think he was learning in other schools.”
Cody, for his part, said it took a hard sell from his mother to get him to apply to the academy. (Several other cadets said the same thing. Moms are apparently the secret weapon in America’s military arsenal.)
But he’s liked everything he’s seen so far. Make that almost everything. “The uniform, ummm, well, it’s a uniform,” he said, looking down at his fatigues and boots. “If I didn’t have to wear it, I’d probably be in flip-flops, a t-shirt and shorts.”
Take heart, private. Col. Harrell says you’ve already survived the toughest part of entering ROTC.
“The uniforms and the haircut, that’s definitely the part that’s the hardest for them to get used to,” she said. “They’re fine with saying ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes ma’am,’ and they like belonging to a unit, a larger structure. But the uniforms and the haircut, that’s a big leap.”