But there’s one obvious path of service Obama doesn’t recommend — or even mention: military service. He does mention war twice: “At a time of war, we need you to work for peace.” And, we face “big challenges like war and recession.” But there’s nothing about serving your country in uniform.We in Illinois have a wonderful example of a Senator who served too: Paul Douglas.
It can’t be that the possibility of military service as an admirable form of public service didn’t occur to Obama. Only the day before, Obama had been squabbling with John McCain about veterans’ benefits. He said then, “Obviously I revere our soldiers and want to make sure they are being treated with honor and respect.”
And the day after the Wesleyan commencement, Obama was in New Mexico, where he read an eloquent and appropriate Memorial Day tribute to our fallen soldiers.
But at an elite Northeastern college campus, Obama obviously felt no need to disturb the placid atmosphere of easy self-congratulation. He felt no need to remind students of a different kind of public service — one that entails more risks than community organizing. He felt no need to tell the graduating seniors in the lovely groves of Middletown that they should be grateful to their peers who were far away facing dangers on behalf of their country
From his Wikipedia entry,
The day after losing the primary, Douglas resigned from the Chicago City Council and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a private. Wanting to see front line duty, Douglas accepted a commission as a captain. Although he was then fifty years old, Douglas was in good physical shape and had some pull with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, the former publisher of the Chicago Daily News, who arranged for Douglas to see duty in the Pacific Theater of Operations.Douglas's story was one I grew up hearing from my Dad. When Mark Shields called for Paul Douglas Brigades, I blogged about it. The Wesleyan commencement would certainly have been a nice opportunity to recall our Senator's service, and it's a shame Obama doesn't seem to know this history (or maybe read Mark Shields). It's close to home for anyone who knows Illinois and a proud example of a guy who served.
On the second day of the Battle of Peleliu, Douglas finally saw action when his unit waded into the fray. He earned a Bronze Star for carrying ammunition to the front lines under enemy fire and earned his first Purple Heart when he was grazed by shrapnel while carrying flamethrower ammunition to the front lines. In that six week battle, while investigating some random fire shootings, Douglas was shot at as he uncovered a two-foot-wide cave. He then killed the Japanese soldier inside at which point he wondered whether his enemy might be an economic professor at the University of Tokyo.
A few months later, during the Battle of Okinawa, Douglas earned his second Purple Heart. A volunteer rifleman in an infantry platoon, he was helping to carry wounded from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines along the Naha-Shuri line when a burst of machine gun fire tore through his left arm, severing the main nerve and leaving it effectively useless.
After a thirteen-month stay in the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland, Douglas was given an honorable discharge as a Lieutenant Colonel with full disability pay.