Military: America’s most influential educator

If you have a loved one serving in the U.S. military this holiday season, you understand the sacrifices of a military career.

If you have a loved one serving in the U.S. military this holiday season, you understand the sacrifices of a military career.

These sacrifices contribute more to the nation than just security.

The soldier in your family plays another powerful role.

Of all the educational options at Americans’ fingertips, perhaps none wields as much widespread influence as the military.

As an institution, the military drives technological innovations that later reach the masses. These inventions develop out of necessity: To prepare for peace is to prepare for war. Both of those fronts are motivated by survival.

The Internet was first developed and embraced by the U.S. military before common citizens gained access.

We even learn from enemies during wartime. Consider that our nation’s interstate system was inspired by Germany’s network of roads, created under Adolf Hitler during World War II.

Although “educational” sounds like a subjective term, the military’s formal training shapes attitudes and work ethics, one boot-camp grad at a time. Some prefer to say the military indoctrinates or brainwashes, while others say it offers discipline and structure. For better or worse, depending on your view, the military graduates millions of Americans who attended the same school.

Soldiers train to work in high-stress situations unknown to the civilian world. They learn how to obey authority, they learn how to handle weapons properly and they learn how to complete tasks correctly. People with military careers live a nomadic lifestyle as they hop around the country’s bases. Soldiers stationed overseas and in Iraq spend lengthy stretches away from their families. Millions of men, women and children simply get used to living this way.

No group in recent U.S. history has spread the mantras of the military as well as the World War II generation.

Following the war’s end, millions of soldiers poured into colleges and started families. National pride fueled a can-do mindset and established an overtly conformed status quo. They injected discipline into the nation’s work ethic, built up industries and created a superpower.

As a side effect, this “Leave It To Beaver” way of life eroded under the force of this generation’s children. Baby boomers fueled a flourishing counterculture as an equally strong rejection of the military-tinted mainstream. A line may have been drawn, but no one escaped the military’s touch.

Nowadays, perception of the military is mixed, depending on when you were born. The World War II generation united during a war with the world at stake. The Vietnam War split a generation in half. These two generations go back and forth on Iraq while another generation struggles to understand what war is all about.

Regardless, the public generally respects the U.S. military and knows the soldiers have a job to do.

At a post-Veterans Day meeting of a local Kiwanis chapter, several members recalled their military duties with pride. Some served for a few years while others finished solid careers, but all seemed to appreciate what they learned in the military.

Likewise, the military bases in Washington state attract thousands of residents who decide to stay.

If the U.S. military were a classroom, not everyone would sit in the front row or even attend class. But like it or not, the military teaches all of us.