A military mother's take on the president's speech

Beverly Gunn
The stage was set at West Point last night and the backdrop was the Corps of Cadets, who served as props for the President's speech. It was not a proud moment. I saw all those young men and women, who are chosen and a part of the top ten percent of the greatest minds of their generation, and I wept.

To use them as props seemed to me to serve as the worst insult ever offered by a leader of a nation. Yet, as I pondered the speech, the audience, their circumspect behavior, and the fatigue that washed over many of these young folks, I wondered if the White House understood the length of the cadets duty day, for it wasn't over after the speech. These fine young people left the speech and got back to being serious cadets, studying for upcoming semester exams, and finishing projects.

The days rarely end for these young people. Many went back to their cadet hall and spent the rest of the night making up for the hours they spent waiting for the President and the time it took to make this speech.

I can speak to both the feelings of a parent of those in the military who are serving and as the mother of a former Air Force Academy Cadet. I can say we are extremely worried. We find ourselves purposefully locked in a no-win situation by a Commander who seems not to understand either the sacrifice the military makes or the goals in winning a war. Instead we hear mewing about end games and final timetables, all which are received as signs that encourage our enemies.

I look back to the Vietnam war, the war of my youth and that which my husband fought two tours in. For me, then, it was a war very far away and being raised in the ranch life of the hill country of Texas, I rarely contemplated a war that seemed so far away from home. The first really serious thought I had about the war in Vietnam came in, strangely enough, my Algebra class, when our teacher, a retired Colonel who had taught at the War College, pierced the small minds he taught by writing simple quotations on the blackboard each day. Only rarely did he ever comment about them. The day I read this quotation my world began to open. The words said simply,

"Somewhere out there a man died for me today, that I might live free. And I must ask and answer, 'Am I worth dying for?'"

I remember sitting in my seat, riveted by reading the words, and the impact they made on my heart, lasts even still today. And I wonder about all those in the field of battle today and for our children, whose hearts are as cold as stone over the course that lies ahead. I wonder, has our President ever thought of the price of duty that he asks of us today, with no end game or victory in sight, and whether anyone serving wants to give a life so cheaply? For if we are not in this war to win, and see to it that our enemies are clear about the cost of attacking the freedom of our nation, then we would be much better off not having begun the battle. And yet as I write those words I think of all who purchased my freedom and how I desire that my children and grandchildren live in freedom.

You see, Mr. President, that is why we serve. We only ask that you do not see our children and our family members as good photo op!


Mrs. Gunn is a simple Texas rancher. She is married and has a son and a foster daughter now serving. She lives in East Texas.

The stage was set at West Point last night and the backdrop was the Corps of Cadets, who served as props for the President's speech. It was not a proud moment. I saw all those young men and women, who are chosen and a part of the top ten percent of the greatest minds of their generation, and I wept.

To use them as props seemed to me to serve as the worst insult ever offered by a leader of a nation. Yet, as I pondered the speech, the audience, their circumspect behavior, and the fatigue that washed over many of these young folks, I wondered if the White House understood the length of the cadets duty day, for it wasn't over after the speech. These fine young people left the speech and got back to being serious cadets, studying for upcoming semester exams, and finishing projects.

The days rarely end for these young people. Many went back to their cadet hall and spent the rest of the night making up for the hours they spent waiting for the President and the time it took to make this speech.

I can speak to both the feelings of a parent of those in the military who are serving and as the mother of a former Air Force Academy Cadet. I can say we are extremely worried. We find ourselves purposefully locked in a no-win situation by a Commander who seems not to understand either the sacrifice the military makes or the goals in winning a war. Instead we hear mewing about end games and final timetables, all which are received as signs that encourage our enemies.

I look back to the Vietnam war, the war of my youth and that which my husband fought two tours in. For me, then, it was a war very far away and being raised in the ranch life of the hill country of Texas, I rarely contemplated a war that seemed so far away from home. The first really serious thought I had about the war in Vietnam came in, strangely enough, my Algebra class, when our teacher, a retired Colonel who had taught at the War College, pierced the small minds he taught by writing simple quotations on the blackboard each day. Only rarely did he ever comment about them. The day I read this quotation my world began to open. The words said simply,

"Somewhere out there a man died for me today, that I might live free. And I must ask and answer, 'Am I worth dying for?'"

I remember sitting in my seat, riveted by reading the words, and the impact they made on my heart, lasts even still today. And I wonder about all those in the field of battle today and for our children, whose hearts are as cold as stone over the course that lies ahead. I wonder, has our President ever thought of the price of duty that he asks of us today, with no end game or victory in sight, and whether anyone serving wants to give a life so cheaply? For if we are not in this war to win, and see to it that our enemies are clear about the cost of attacking the freedom of our nation, then we would be much better off not having begun the battle. And yet as I write those words I think of all who purchased my freedom and how I desire that my children and grandchildren live in freedom.

You see, Mr. President, that is why we serve. We only ask that you do not see our children and our family members as good photo op!


Mrs. Gunn is a simple Texas rancher. She is married and has a son and a foster daughter now serving. She lives in East Texas.