Military youth deserve own voice

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 19, 2007 Ed Cartoon

The story of Mustangs volleyballer Conor Murphy, who aims to fly aid and rescue missions with Canada’s air force, produces an image rarely seen in today’s media: a young Canadian using the military to build their own character and bring about positive change.

Whether in Canada or the United States, the military is always a hotly debated subject. While some people believe the military is an unnecessary institution which harkens back to a more violent time in our collective past, others feel it’s stigmatized and underappreciated.

Naturally, there are students subscribing to both viewpoints. However, it seems most students perceive the military as a violent, right-wing organization. In contrast, there seems to be a minority of students advocating the merits of our Armed Forces.

However, this binarist thinking, which characterizes the military as either violent or valiant, is problematic because it ignores the various reasons people join the military in the first place.

It’s unfair to assume everyone in the Armed Forces supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s incorrect to assume everyone who joins the army does so with the intention of engaging in combat. Many adolescents join the military to finance their education, while others may seek improved discipline or a physical challenge. Furthermore, many people join the military as a way of reaching out to others, be it as a medic or a peacekeeper.

It’s therefore shortsighted to assume everyone in the military sees violence as the best way to resolve conflict. When evaluating the Armed Forces and those involved, we should remember these are individuals with unique skills, motivations and political beliefs.

However, those who join the military, regardless of motivation, should know they represent an organization that endorses war in certain situations. They should be prepared to defend their decision and deal with the scrutiny accompanying their choice.

Though people in the military are individuals, they’re also part of something greater than themselves and must accept some of the responsibility for the actions of the military as whole.

Luckily, most people in the military are more than willing to share their views, engage in debate and clear up misconceptions surrounding the Armed Forces. The military as an organization should follow suit and attempt to create a wider discourse with the public regarding its foundations, activities and intentions. This could destroy some of the stigmas currently attached to the military.

At the very least, we can’t ignore the military’s role in Canada’s past; thousands of Canadians sacrificed their lives during both World Wars and several subsequent conflicts. Their legacy is our freedom. In return, we should keep open minds when judging the value of the military, regardless of our individual conclusions.

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