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by Sarah Pride
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From Plato to Push-ups: Students in the Military

For a growing number of Patrick Henry College upperclassmen and alumni, the school motto “For Christ and for liberty” has translated into service to their country through the United States military. For these students, completing their Patrick Henry education brought a heightened sense of mission as they sought to apply their ideals to their lives.

Patrick Henry College / Art Cox
Taking a stand for liberty: From left, PHC students Gabe Evans and Daniel Watson are ROTC members.

“Why did I join the U.S. Marine Corps?” wrote PHC junior Kyle Green in a letter to his new bosses in the Marine Corps. “I joined because I am willing and capable to do what is necessary to protect and preserve my country, even to the point of giving my own life.”

Kyle enlisted in January 2007 for an eight-year commitment, taking a temporary leave from his college education in order to receive training. He plans to finish his degree from Patrick Henry and then dive into active service.

When asked about his plans, he is soft-spoken but determined. “I am joining the Marine Corps for the same reason I came to PHC,” he says. “I would sum it up as a debt of honor we owe to our faith and to our country for the heritage and the sacrifices from which we have benefited.”

Others echo this sentiment. Gabe Evans, another PHC junior, declares, “As a Christian soldier, I will gain skills that will enable me to take a very concrete, physical stand for liberty, while simultaneously furthering my long-term ability to lead the culture and to preserve the legacy of freedom bequeathed to my generation.”

Gabe chose the United States Army for practical reasons. “It is the only branch that is currently offering ROTC at PHC,” he notes, stating his intention to become an Army Ranger. He is pursuing a commission through ROTC and has signed up for a 10-year commitment, much of which will be spent as a reservist or in the National Guard.

John Crutcher, who graduated from PHC in May 2007, begins 27 weeks of intense training for the United States Marine Corps in January 2008. He “joined to be Marine Corps infantry—a ground-pounder," inspired partly by his father’s 30 years of service in the Army. John’s dad retired as a colonel, having fought in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, and Silver Star.

“Someone is going to have to make sacrifices for [freedom],” John explains. “I would rather it be those who willingly undertake its defense than innocent civilians caught in the blast of a terrorist’s bomb or in an enemy country’s attack. What I ask from my country in return for service is that I receive the best training it can offer to keep me alive and coming home at the end of the fight.”

Kyle Green agrees: “I can think of no greater way to show my love for my country than being willing to lay down my life in order to protect and preserve her.”

Does such inspirational fervor last? Or does the military grind bring inevitable disillusionment? The experience of two PHC alumni serving in the U.S. Marine Corps seems to demonstrate that actual military service can be very satisfying.

“My time in the Marines has definitely been fulfilling, and I am confident that I made the right decision in joining,” writes Second Lieutenant Aaron Carlson, PHC class of 2006. “There have been times of classic military frustration (hurry up and wait, etc.) but that has not shaken my faith in God’s leading me to where I am.”

Kevin Radman (class of 2005), who decided he wanted to join the military about one month before he signed papers, concurs: “I love it and would not trade my experience here for any other”

What’s more, all these young men strongly advocate that others make the same choice.

“If a student is an able-bodied male, he should seriously consider the military for a period of time, even if he knows he does not want it to be a career,” Aaron advises. “Service in the military does not mean you cannot transition into politics, or anything else, once you finish a tour. In fact, I believe it can make you more effective in politics and business because it puts life in perspective and instills discipline.”

Kyle Green puts it even more succinctly-with perhaps a little attitude.

“Not everyone can serve in the military. But I believe everyone who is able should at least try.”

He grins mischievously.

“For those considering the military right now, you have my respect. Everyone else—come see me.”

About the author

Sarah Pride is an editorialist for Patrick Henry College.