Soon the University of Wisconsin-Madison will graduate its senior class. Drivers near campus will have to dodge young people in caps and gowns. Some of them will soon start good jobs or have been accepted to graduate and professional schools. Proud parents will be driving slowly around town and turning randomly because they are not quite sure how to get where they are going.
I understand their pride in their children’s achievement, mixing their memories of childhood and this new chapter in their lives. My older son is their age and looks forward to the adventure of a new job.
In addition to the Wisconsin alumni sticker on my car is a sticker that really stands out in liberal Madison. It’s not “Kerry-Edwards” or “Attack Iraq? No.” but here it seems to be just as political. It’s “Navy Dad.”
A math and science whiz, Jens Michaelsen is starting the fifth year of an eight-year commitment to service. After four years at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command – two as a student, two on staff – he will be flying to Pearl Harbor this month to serve on a nuclear-powered submarine. He is a Petty Officer Second Class, which makes him the equivalent of a Sergeant. Jens will be 22 next month; “Accelerate your life” is not just a U.S. Navy recruiting slogan.
My kids went to a high school in Michigan similar to Madison East. Inexplicably, Jens never sought admission to college in Michigan and rebuffed recruiting efforts by the University of Illinois. While in high school, I took him on campus visits to the University of Wisconsin - Madison and Auburn University. If he had gone to college, he would be graduating this year and it would be me driving around town slowly and turning at random.
Jens will have an undergraduate degree, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and can use his Montgomery GI Bill education benefits to attend graduate school. He knows that I now discourage him from going to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, despite the school’s leadership in Nuclear Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, because I perceive Madison as being hostile to servicemen and women.
We all empathize with those who have loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and we weep for those who are casualties. Calling for ground troops to come home is qualitatively different than opposing Selective Service registration and service recruiting, however. The 53 organizations in the Madison Area Peace Coalition, including Progressive Dane, think Jens was wrong to enlist. They want to keep military recruiters out of Madison’s high schools so other young adults don’t make his “mistake.”
Not every high school students wants to go or can afford college right away. Madison liberals seek to deny them the ability to choose the military as an option to minimum wage jobs and unhappy college experiences.