BE ALL YOU CAN BE

This was published yesterday, July 18th 2018, in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri. I am posting it immediately because I feel passionately about the subject. If you agree please share it and pass it on. Thank You.
That used to be the Army slogan, and it could possibly again become the Army slogan. The current slogan “Army Strong” is going to be changed. Army leadership is currently wrestling with what will be the next slogan.
In the late 1970’s Vietnam was over, military funding was being reduced, and there was a reduction in force (RIF). Many officers were being released from active duty, they called it being rifed, and morale was low. The volunteer Army was new and morale among Army recruiters, who were under tremendous pressure, was low. Sergeants were being involuntarily assigned to recruiting duty, and many considered it a career death sentence. In 1979 the Army assigned a two star general named Maxwell Thurman as the Commander of the Army Recruiting Command. I knew Max Thurman when he was a Colonel commanding the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery. He was a small man in stature, but a tremendous moving force in the Army. Max Thurman coined the slogan “BE ALL YOU CAN BE” and started changing the image of the Army. He toured the country and would walk into Recruiting Stations unannounced. He identified recruiting problems at the lowest level and turned the Recruiting Command around. He was sometimes called “Mad Max” or “Maxatollah”. He subsequently directed the invasion of Panama, retired as a four star in 1991 and died of cancer in 1995.
The Army is currently facing a challenge. Recruit an additional 4,000 people a year, from now on, to grow the active army to half a million soldiers by 2028. The Army is in competition with the other services and a strong civilian economy. On July 9th 2018 Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper visited the 1st Recruiting Brigade at Fort George G Meade, Maryland to discuss recruiting. While there he swore eight young men into the Army. He said; “These are the elite one percent who will defend the other 99 percent of the American people. Swearing an oath to the Constitution and defending our way of life, is something millions of Americans have chosen to do over the past 243 years. The Army, he said, allows those who make the decision to join, an opportunity to “serve a cause bigger than yourself.”
One of the most significant differences between being a soldier in the Army and a civilian job, is that in the Army you will be challenged. Not only physically, but academically and occupationally. It has been my observation, in life, that most people are capable of much more than they do, and many people today who are in the age window for military service have never been challenged or had to endure hardship.
Maybe that is why many veterans say that the military changed their life. It made them reach down inside themselves and grab that inner strength and power, which was always there, but had never been challenged. Be All You Can Be.
Soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution of United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution is our operations manual. It took many smart men many years of arguing and yelling to finalize it. It is unlike the founding document of any other country, in that it was constructed to limit the power of the government, and place the real power in the hands of the people. The United States of America is the world’s shining beacon of freedom and liberty, and it has done more good for the world than the rest of the world combined. Defending this country is an honorable thing to do. Be All You Can Be.
American soldiers are some of the greatest ambassadors for the USA, they are not only fierce fighters, but honorable and compassionate men and women. Soldiers are also a fun loving group, after all, so is America. My Dad told of soldiers in France in World War II teaching French boys, who shined their shoes, English so they could advertise, by yelling “Damn poor shoe shine”. In Vietnam the kids trusted American soldiers so much that they would sneak out and try to sell cokes to them during a fire fight. And from Iraq there are many pictures of American soldiers in full battle gear, playing soccer with local children.
Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 titled “The Greatest Generation”, in which are many stories about different people, some famous, some not, who grew up in the Great Depression, and thecxwhipped the world in World War II. The depression lasted about 10 years, starting with the stock market crash in 1929 and ended with the military buildup for World War II. After the stock market crashed, cash dried up, banks closed, businesses closed, there was no work. Plus starting in 1930 the central United States (Missouri) suffered the longest drought on record. Record temperatures in the summers (many of which still stand today) and no rain caused many to sell all of their animals. Dad said that people walked starving cattle to the railroad yards in Belle, if the cows could make it up the ramp into the cars they were shipped, if not they were taken back and butchered. He said many collapsed trying to get into the rail cars, and were just shot and dragged off. A recent NASA study of the past one thousand years of weather proclaimed 1934 as the driest year on record. During the depression there was no social service assistance (welfare), no social security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, or any government assistance. People in the United States of America literally starved to death. People out here in the country fared better than those in the cities. My grandfather told a story of being called to grand jury duty in St Louis in the midst of the depression. In conversation with another juror he said that he didn’t believe it was as bad as some of the papers reported. Remember, newspapers were the primary source of news, no television and very little radio. The other juror invited grandpa to accompany him during lunch. They went downtown in St Louis and saw a church soup kitchen. He said there was a line of people waiting for a bowl of watery soup. They were carrying bowls, tin cups, canning jars, and old tin cans, they were skin and bones skinny, and for most, that bowl of soup is all they would eat that day. He couldn’t see the end of the line, it went for blocks. My Dad raised sheep, worked anywhere he could and put himself through high school during the depression. He was 20 years old when he graduated from Belle High School in 1937. Dad told a story about hearing of work somewhere toward St Louis. He and another found the place, they were digging in water lines. I’ve forgotten how much it paid, but it was only pennies. There was a line of men waiting for work, and if one of the digging workers sat down, he was fired and another was hired. My mother was the oldest of six children, she quit school after the 10th grade in 1934, and at 16 went to work in a small broom factory in Bland, Missouri to help support her parents and five siblings. People who grew up and survived the Great Depression were certainly challenged.
After the war that greatest generation came home, went to work and built America. My Dad got his pilot’s licenses through the GI Bill. The GI Bill paid for my bachelor’s degree in accounting and my son’s degree in computer engineering. But every generation wants its’ children to have it better than they had it growing up. The result has been that many people have grown to adulthood having never been challenged physically or emotionally. After a couple generations, some parents apparently try to be “buddies” with their children instead of being the parent that properly guides the kids through their adolescent years. That attitude was also absorbed by many school systems that lowered their standards, so more could get good grades and feel good about themselves. The result was many people graduating from high school were unprepared for the real working world. Many colleges started freshman English and math classes commonly referred to as “bonehead english and bonehead math”, because incoming freshmen weren’t prepared for college work. The Army was not immune to that attitude. I recently wrote that it got so bad that starting this summer the Army is turning the discipline in basic training back about 50 years by reinstituting “strict discipline”. Be All You Can Be.
Army leadership has vowed that during this buildup standards will not be lowered. I certainly hope not. BE ALL YOU CAN BE!

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