On Friday, I will attend the solemn ceremony at Northwestern University in which Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps students will take the oath to become members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. As both a faculty member and graduate of Northwestern, I try to attend each year as these outstanding young people commit themselves to a life fraught with potential danger in service to our country. They have earned and deserve our solidarity and support.
Almost 50 years ago, as a Northwestern undergraduate, I was arrested for damaging the NROTC offices during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. At the time, many of us believed that NROTC contributed to the war effort, and therefore had to be removed from campus.
As a leftist then and now, I have no qualms about admitting to my errors, one of which was a wholesale misunderstanding of the importance of the ROTC program — Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force — on college campuses.
Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez has long been a legend in the Special Forces community and now you can read about the Medal of Honor recipient's bravery in a new graphic novel published by the Association of the U.S. Army.
His story is almost too incredible to believe. Wounded by a land mine in 1965 during his first tour in Vietnam, Benavidez was initially told he'd never walk again. But the tough soldier proved the doctors wrong, requalified for airborne and went on to join Special Forces.
Sometimes, a moment is so ironic that it makes you stop for a minute to wonder who the hell is running this universe. A classic example from the annals of U.S. military history: The first atomic bomb dropped on Japan was named "Little Boy," and the B-29 that carried it was named for the pilot's mother.
A far less historic but equally strange event took place on Thursday when Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan acknowledged that the Pentagon is considering a request from the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., to deploy more U.S. troops to the Middle East in response to purported threats from Iran.
"What we're looking at is: Are there things we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon. "It may involve sending additional troops."
That may not sound ironic at all until you realize that Shanahan was about to have a meeting with an official from Vietnam, home of the conflict that proved big things have small beginnings.
The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force/3rd Wing via Facebook)
After decades with nothing but pistols to defend themselves with in the event of a successful ejection over enemy territory, Air Force pilots are officially rocking compact versions of a rifle that the U.S. military has used since Vietnam.
In the last month, airmen have started receiving the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, a heavily-modified version of the shortened 5.56mm M16 derivative that U.S. service members once brandished in the 1960s as the CAR-15 or "Colt Commando"
U.S. Navy sailors at Los Angeles International Airport. It took the U.S. government nearly 40 years to recover the wreckage of the E-1B Tracer aircraft that crashed, killing Guerra in 1967. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
As kids, Ruben and Raul thought they had life all figured out.
They would grow up and live minutes from each other, be best men in each other's weddings, godfathers to each other's children. They would sit side by side at Dodger Stadium, two old men in a sea of blue.
The friends never imagined that after high school both would be sent to Vietnam — but only one would return.
The loss was so painful that for 40 years Ruben Valencia could hardly bring himself to say Raul Guerra's name.