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Good Soldiers

To The Editor:

As a graduate of La Salle Institute (1970), it was with mixed feelings I read your article on JROTC [“Corps Values,” May 20].

I believe the education I received at La Salle was of the highest caliber. My parents viewed the college preparatory school for young men for what it claimed to be: A means to exact a disciplined approach to academics. Combined with learning valuable lessons of life, this course would eventually lead one on a path to a college degree, a substantive career and a meaningful existence.

The Christian Brothers were our surrogate masters and commanders, meting out scholastics with corporal punishment when milder methods failed. It was their earnest attempt at schooling a sometimes unruly group of teenage boys, molding them into future leaders of their communities.

Some brothers used unique methods in getting their points across to us. I remember one brother in my junior year of theology (a required course for Catholics) metaphorically describing Heaven as “one eternal orgasm.” That symbolism has remained embedded with me still. And, I should add, kept me on my best behavior.

On the other hand, these were the ’60s. We at La Salle stuck out in the milieu. As the atrocities of Vietnam were broadcast via the nightly news, Walter Cronkite pronounced the war a quagmire and unwinnable. A generational gap and cultural divide had reached critical mass.

During these tumultuous times I began to reassess the meaning of a military- fueled education. We weren’t immune in our ivory towers to the changing world around us. Hell, some of my classmates even had the gall to start an underground newspaper, The Silver Hammer, to address grievances they had over the war, the military and La Salle’s role in a system of indoctrinating its students with a military mindset.

This schism at La Salle led in 1969 to an assembly of the incoming senior class. Vice Principal Brother Brice Patrick (affectionately aka “Doomer”) had a radical proposition to present. La Salle would retain its high academic standards, but the military would be optional or abolished. There was even a notion that La Salle could become coed. As the incoming senior class, Brother Patrick asked for our input.

The stunned but overwhelming majority of us assembled cheered wildly.

In 1969 many felt that a well-rounded education need not rely on a strict military environment to attain it.

The board of trustees, however, thought otherwise. Those wise old men, former alumni, and financiers of La Salle, liked tradition. They did not cotton to change. They saw this rebellious behavior as somewhat mutinous and indicative of the battle outside raging. Their philosophy seemed to suggest the significance in preserving the status quo: “It was good enough for me. . . . It makes you a man. . . . I was spanked and turned out OK, etc.”

A time warp has seen the antiwar and hippie movements evolve into baby-boomer yuppies. We’ve witnessed Nixon’s secret peace plan (bombing Cambodia and Laos); Kissinger’s not-so secret peace plan (more bombing); Kent State; Watergate; Carter’s “appeasement” in Iran; Reagan’s Iran-contra forgetfulness; born-again patriotism; Stars Wars (SDI); Gulf War I; Clinton’s draft-dodging, anti-military, Oxford past; compassionate conservatism; the 2000 election; Sept. 11, 2001; the War on Terror; Osama; Saddam; the Axis of Evil; Afghanistan; Guantanamo; Iraq; and now Abu Ghraib.

Once again I find myself reexamining the role of the military, especially on the impressionable young. Will our future leaders make logical, thoughtful decisions about war and peace, or will they demand blind allegiance to superiors who order them to humiliate fellow human beings?

Long before the revered-by-some Colin Powell lied to the world about Iraq, he was an officer in Vietnam and part of the investigation team of the My Lai Massacre. When questioned about alleged atrocities committed by Lt. Calley, Powell found the charges to be “not of much substance.” Powell was a good soldier then, just following orders, who lied to protect his commanders up the chain of command. Apparently he has not changed his stripes. A good soldier he remains.

It has been nearly four decades since my days at La Salle. They decided after I left to upgrade its training to JROTC. Instead of imparting a world view of emerging multiculturalism which will envelope the United States, La Salle, CBA, and the Bush administration have concluded the military still should be a major force in determining this nation’s interaction with the world.

Problems with that philosophy seem as evident as they did in the ’60s. When will we ever learn from past mistakes?

Dennis Dzamba
New York City

See, We Weren’t Kidding

To the Editor:

My cousin, who lives in Colonie, sent me the recent article about Schuylerville that appeared in your paper [“Bootstraps to Boomtown,” May 6]. I was so happy to read about the “rejuvenation” of this special village. My father was a doctor there for many years and was instrumental in the building of the beach, which unfortunately has been closed for some time. In fact, the project was often called “Callahan’s Mudhole” or “Falvey’s Folly” after Dad and his friend Dan Falvey, postmaster at the time. My brother and I spent a whole lot of outrageously happy years in Schuylerville and I am tickled to learn of these enthusiastic people who know a good thing when they see it. We try to visit there at least once a year, and I almost wish I could live there again and be part of it.

Ann Callahan Dick
Oyster Bay, N.Y.

De Nada

To the Editor:

Thank you for the terrific column on the Brahms Requiem on the front of a recent “Night & Day” [May 6]. The column captured the essence of the composer and the work in one ’graph. Great visual, too. Thank you.

Janet Angelis
Burnt Hills Oratorio Society
Burnt Hills

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
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