By Hunter Scott, World War II Veterans Committee National Youth Representative

As I am nearing the age of retirement from my position as the World War II Veterans Committee’s Youth Spokesperson—the days of my youth are apparently ending—I have been thinking about what I’ve learned throughout the last few years. Here I am about to receive a commission into the US Navy and the most common question I am asked is, “Don’t you find it ironic that you’re joining the Navy after the research you’ve done to expose one of the greatest cover-ups in naval history?” To which I commonly reply, “Everyone makes mistakes.”

As a matter of fact, however, I have never been more proud to become member of the Armed Services to have the chance to serve our country like so many of my heroes, especially the men who served on the USS Indianapolis.

The other day in our campus news publication I read an outlandish anti-war/anti-military op-ed. In the write-up, I found that a particular college student had the gall to criticize the armed services for their participation in the current fight in Iraq. After reading the student’s opinion I recognized that there are many people in our country who are ignorant and remain uninformed of the tremendous contribution that our military continually makes to our country. This ignorance is sad, but I want to emphasize that these people represent a minority of our population. This student writer missed a few fundamental concepts that I am confident are reflected in the thoughts and ideas of the majority of Americans.

First, the student failed to understand the purpose of our military. We function to protect and defend the United States of America. Thanks to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard; we are able to be at the same time both free and secure. Second, the young person seems to be unaware that, regardless of the reasons for being at war, we (the military) fight so that others do not have to. Countries like Russia, Belarus, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, and countless others have a conscripted army that requires military service of all its citizens. The main ideal that separates the United States from every other country in the world is the freedom that we believe is the right to each individual. The op-ed author obviously has little experience or knowledge of his own country and our values and the role of the military in securing his freedom to write his opinion. Likewise, I am exercising my right to do the same.

As I said, though, I think this student’s beliefs represent a minority. This past summer on my final midshipman cruise we were instructed to wear our summer whites in town for a port visit in Newport, R.I. I have never been treated with so much respect and thanked so many times in a one-week period. I am truly blessed to be a part of an institution such as the U.S. Navy and even more blessed to be a citizen of the United States.

I felt compelled to write this article for a few reasons. One, I want to remind people of the sacrifice that many have made in pursuit of the democratic ideals we hold dear. And two, I want to express the notion that there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with our government, which is bound to make mistakes—we all have a glorious right to do so. There is a point, however, when we let that disagreement turn to anger and bitterness and in turn respond in a manner in which maliciously smears our traditions and institutions. This type of criticism is neither healthy nor is likely to bring about change. Attacking our military and its members in this way is ignorant and ungrateful.

Finally, I want to personally thank everyone who has and who currently does serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. To you all, you are my heroes and you make me proud to be an American.

For the last several years, Hunter Scott has served as the National Youth Representative for the World War II Veterans Committee. He was instrumental in persuading Congress to pass legislation overturning the count martial of Captain Charles McVay of the USS Indianapolis. Hunter’s mission to save the reputation of Captain McVay and the men of the Indianapolis grew out of a history fair project on the ship’s sinking when he was twelve years old. Hunter is currently a student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and enrolled in its Naval ROTC program.