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.
Jackie Huber was one of the few, but she never felt particularly proud as a woman Marine.
She spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, from 1984 to 2004, and rose from the enlisted ranks to chief warrant officer. She worked in MISSO, the Manpower Information System Support Office, entering data about service members at installations on the East and West coasts. She volunteered for the same duty in Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope and lived in a sand-filled camp that smelled of dirt and death.
Huber said it wasn't cool to be a Marine during most of her tenure, which was before the days military members were thanked for their service. Some of the men she worked with made it clear they looked upon women as more trouble than they were worth—unless they needed someone to sleep with, Huber said.
"We were treated like second-class citizens, and we had few rights and fewer advocates," Huber said. "That's why I didn't want anyone to know what I had done. I didn't wanted to be treated like that anymore."
The Nation's newest Coast Guardsmen from Recruit Company Lima 188 march in front of family and friends during Pass and Review during recruit graduation at Training Center Cape May, Aug. 2, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)
First you hear them. The dull roar of voices calling and repeating. Hundreds of rubber soles begin pounding the pavement of an empty Beach Avenue. It sounds like an oncoming train.
Then the recruits of United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May are upon you.