Letter: U.S. would benefit from Eli military presence

A job change brought my wife (’98) and me to New Haven and to Yale earlier this year. As a military veteran whose officer commission came through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, I was surprised to learn that none existed. Didn’t every important university offer ROTC?

With the News’ endorsement of resurrecting ROTC at Yale, I felt compelled to offer these personal perspectives:

1. The military is for everybody (Yalies included). My family lacked any historical military tradition, and I wouldn’t call myself overly patriotic growing up. I can’t quite remember why I so freely made the ROTC choice, but four years of free tuition at Carnegie Mellon University courtesy of the Air Force probably had something to do with it. In exchange, I served eight great years as an Air Force officer gaining a lifetime of experiences that few could top. I wasn’t a “military guy” when I entered ROTC (and few would identify me as one even today), but CMU and the Air Force offered me an opportunity and I took it, setting a course for success in my life. Yale owes this opportunity to its students.

2. It’s free money for Yale. While most ROTC participants nationwide do not earn scholarships, those at the nation’s best schools often do. After all, the credentials needed to earn admission to top universities usually overlap with the military’s criteria for 4-year, full-tuition scholarships for ROTC participants. With so few students paying the full fare for their education, why would Yale or any university turn down a big fat tuition check from the military every year?

3. Yale could run the military. How many military generals have a Yale degree? Apart from the stray law or graduate degree, I bet not a one. The Yale community should be embarrassed that such an important national institution lacks their presence. Don’t we want the protectors of our nation to be led by smart people coming from places like Yale? Instead, we complain from afar about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Yale community should support the training of future military leaders who can command units in a changing world and influence policy accordingly.

To some, this is a complicated issue. To me (and to most universities), it’s simple — invite our military to consider Yale for a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

Mike Emmerth

New Haven