You say that a lot in the military.
But should students at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology have been told they had to say it — and do 20 push-ups, if they didn't say it loudly enough — when Army recruiters gave commands during a phys-ed class last week?
Matthew Rodin, an 18-year-old senior, didn't think so. He refused to say “Yes, sergeant.” As a result, he was removed from gym class and sent to the library to sit out the period. Rodin says he also was threatened with a grade of zero for the day. The school principal says Rodin's grade will not be affected if he completes an assignment he was given in the library.
Partisans of both stripes — supporters of the war in Iraq and opponents of the war — no doubt quickly came to their own conclusions about this incident. We're just guessing, but we suspect one group immediately thought: This is outrageous — Army recruiters have no business being in a school. The other side: This is outrageous — the military deserves our support, and Rodin is an unpatriotic, ungrateful jerk.
Allow us to make what we hope are three more reasoned points:
One: Military recruiters have a tough job to do. This nation is at war. The all-volunteer Army needs recruits. And there's nothing wrong with recruiters having access to students and students having access to recruiters. But allowing recruiters to lead a gym class — a captive audience, so to speak — seems a bit unfair to students who may not be interested in the recruiters' message.
Two: While we certainly respect our military and support our troops, no Army sergeant in this country has the right to come into a school and order students — or any civilian — to say “Yes, sergeant” or anything else.
Granted, this incident may well be much ado about not much; other students say Rodin took it more seriously than anyone else and that the only one who had to do any push-ups was one of the recruiters, because students out-shouted him in the “Yes, sergeant” department.
Nevertheless, point three: Rodin is clearly a young man with strong convictions; he had every right to express those convictions; and he should not be punished for having done so.
And if you disagree with any of that: Get down and give us 20.
Of course, Chris McMahon of Absecon had another idea today.
Regarding the Oct. 20 story about the student who was terribly offended when some Army recruiters were invited to the Atlantic County Institute of Technology for a demonstration about physical fitness, even though it was not a recruitment visit:
I cannot for the life of me understand why this man deserves the amount of press space he was given. People like him despise the very military that has guaranteed him all the rights to speak as he does. Without our military to defend us, none of our rights would be worth the paper they're written on. Those who have served and died for our country are the reason the coward and wimps of this country can whine and moan about how terrible things are without fear of reprisal.
There will always be people like this student. He will live here and benefit from all that our military does to defend his rights. But like the majority of liberals, he will despise them and probably never have the courage to serve himself. It is a disgrace that he is given a headline on the Region section as if he is some defender of values, when it's quite obvious what he really is.
I think the other matter is that Rodin distorted the story — he was threatened with a zero, but his alternate assignment made up for it; the Press misinterpreted the interviews to mean that Rodin was being penalised for not participating. I'll have more later.