The sins which American society has visited upon her youth are in many respects the very sins which American servicemen in turn tend to visit upon society.

To catalog the virtues and vices of military personnel authentically presupposes an omniscience which we surely cannot and would not claim. In a very real sense each man—including the serviceman—is the responsible guardian of his own soul and decides his moral destiny. The assessment offered here is based, rather, on hundreds of replies from personnel at military bases at home and abroad to an inquiry by CHRISTIANITY TODAY. The findings are instructive and illuminating.

The American serviceman, insists Lieutenant Commander Frank C. Collins, Jr., U.S. Navy, executive officer aboard the U.S.S. “Shields,” is not “some peculiar creature conceived for a life of immorality as portrayed in the paid killer and ravager of social decency. Rather, he is the high school football hero, the serious science student, or the kid who drops out of school in his junior year due to lack of aptitude or interest. He is a person who enlists because of a sincere patriotic desire, or in order to learn a trade, or to fulfill his bent for adventure, or perhaps to complete his military obligation and thus clear the path for further education or a career.… He struggles to maintain individualism in a sea of uniformity.”

Patriotism is ascribed more frequently than any other virtue to U.S. military personnel. This fact is highly significant; it gives wholesome perspective to the easy ascribing of sagging moral and spiritual ideals to those who regard military service as “a necessary evil” due to compulsory draft, or who enlist only to escape civilian frustration. Despite those who are merely “putting in ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.