How did America form such men and women?

How did America form such men and women?

Fr. Paul McNellis, SJ, philosophy professor at Boston College and Vietnam veteran Green Beret, posted the following at the Democracy Project. It’s a letter from an Army reserve chaplain, Maj. Jim Higgins, about an experience he had last May.

I recently attended a showing of “Spiderman 3” here at LSA Anaconda. We have a large auditorioum we use for movies as well as memorial services and other large gatherings. As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through the National Anthem the music stopped.
Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here, the 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward.

The music started again. The Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter as everyone sat down and expected the movie to start.

Here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every Soldier stood at attention. Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand Soldiers:

And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq. I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you here.

They know what they’re over there for. Makes you proud that you have such men and women and serving you in the cause of freedom and defense.

  • Father McNellis is an amazing priest.  I was completely unaware that he blogged.

    “I don’t know what all this talk of favorite super-heroes is about, but I guess mine would be St. Ignatius and St. Thomas Aquinas.” – Father McNellis

  • This is wonderful to hear about our Soldiers in the field (or anywhere else for that matter).


    I’ve been going to the movies for quite a long time, and I don’t recall hearing The Star Spangled Banner ever being played before a movie—either at the 21-screen multiplex or at the single-screen places I went to when I was younger.

    Ballgames, yes.  Movies, no.

    Or maybe this is just a military custom?

  • Yes, serving the cause of freedom and defense, seeing as how our shores were threatened by all those wild-eyed Iraqis under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
    Don’t get me wrong- our military guys are great and are to be praised.  But the best praise would be to bring them home out of harm’s way, so when we really need to be defended, they will still be ready, willing and able.

  • This thread is NOT going to become a debate about the Iraq War, because, well it’s my blog and I say it’s not. And because it’s my blog, I get the last word.

    Our servicemen are in Iraq fighting the war on terror in the Middle East so we won’t have to fight it here, because once the car bombs are going off on Main Street, USA, it’s going to be very bad.

    It’s not for nothing that the enemy is called al Quaeda in Iraq. Rather than streaming into the US to be martyred, they’re doing it far away from here.

    The End. No more comments about this topic will be allowed.

  • As a response to comment number 2: apparently, yes it is a custom at military bases to play the National Anthem at the begining—at least, that is what I gather from the numerous times I have read about this incident.

  • PmcGrath

    Yes – is is a military custom to play the national anthem before a movie starts in a military theater.  I am a military brat and a career (retired now) AF officer. This includes, as the good padre points out, military theaters (e.g. big tents and warehouses) overseas.

    This is a great story, but I have to say it would not be any sort of surprise for most military members. I doubt Father Higgins was surprised either, but it is very illustrative of our young men and women in uniform.

    It was entertaining when the war started that so many of the embedded reporters were so frequently surprised by the selflessness of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines they encountered. When it gets right down to it, I think the reason we have so many disappointments with many of our young people is that we expect so little of them.

  • That’s nice- agree or shut up.
    Very nice.  And quite in keeping with the Bush approach.
    But you’re right, it is your blog so you can run it the way you wish.  But if that’s the way you want to run it, I’ll not continue to visit, so take care and God bless.
    And, oh, BTW, even if you won’t post it, I’ll just tell you that if you think al-Qaeda is not already here waiting to wreak havoc because they are so tied up in Iraq, then you are sadly mistaken.

  • PMcGrath,

    It was the norm, during my time in the service, for the National Anthem to played befor the movie in a military theater.

    This custom dates, as does the National Anthem befor a sporting event, to WWII, when it was also observed in the civilian sector.

    The Military retained it for their theaters.  I must say, the Anthem means more when you’re over-seas.

  • I sent the following in an email to Thomas, in case, he didn’t come back:

    You don’t have to agree with me, but neither do I have to give a platform to opinions I disagree with. My blog is not a public forum. And I don’t want it to descend into a morass of vitriol over the war. People can go to Mark Shea’s or Coalition of Fog’s blogs for that. You don’t have to go away in a snit because I choose not to be yet another place where you can’t away from all of that.

  • I think the story is very touching, and makes me more proud of our soldiers.

    I also think the Major Higgins disparagement of the hypothetical others back in the states hurts the otherwise uplifting story.

    I would have found it more poignant if the us/them mentality had not shown through.