So, while the progressive politicians may have had good intent in their diversion of the “peace dividend” to other programs after the Vietnam War, these defense cuts caused unintended consequences for the military forces leading to the “hollow force” which was attributed to Jimmy Carter’s watch. Moreover this systematic depletion of the Constitutionally-critical armed services had a devastating effect on fielding and maintenance of equipment, living conditions for the troops and their families, and on the troops’ economic parity with comparable civilian occupations. And believe me, you can never pay enough to these brave men and women for what they do on a daily basis, sacrificing their health, their lives, and even their families on the altar of devotion to duty, honor, and country. But the impact on the forces did not stop at the well-known, widely-reported, and easily-quantifiable financial detriment. In such an environment where people are making tremendous sacrifices and then receive the unmistakable message that the American people simply do not care (or at least the politicians speaking on their behalf do not care), you can bet that there will be a tragic and widespread malaise that will eat at the moral fabric of good order and discipline in all the services.
Sure enough, the troops received the message loud and clear. That, coupled with a pervasive failure in the professionalism of military leaders of that era, led to the ubiquitous, unbridled social problems in the military of the late 70’s and early 80’s. During that era, many military leaders focused on “careerism” and not on their moral and professional responsibility to the people they led. This is a subject that has been addressed by numerous authors, so I won’t go into it any further here, but suffice it to say that I was a first-hand witness to the “hollow military” since I served my enlisted tour of duty during that era (1979-1892). There were rampant drug use problems in many places in the services, partly a result of where our culture was at the time, but largely an outcome of the morale and leadership breakdown. And lastly but perhaps more importantly, although the military was one of the first professional institutions in our country to address racial integration, there was still much racial division and resentment between blacks and whites, and believe me, it went both ways. Racism is never a good thing.
This last issue probably bothered me most about military service during that era. During my high school days, while some (thankfully, not all) of my peers were learning about and participating in social exclusion, I had adopted the egalitarian attitude that was espoused by the hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s, picking it up from various friends and people I met while working at a restaurant and a grocery store. I considered everyone I met as my equal and as a potential friend. This attitude would define my career. I should say, at this point that, like all people, I have my flaws as well. There were a handful of times in my youth where I did not live up to those egalitarian and compassionate values, but in those times, God immediately convicted me of my un-Christian attitude and shamed me into ridding my mind and heart of any and all prejudice toward others. Of course, while I embraced the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people while I was still very young, God would still have to spend a lifetime ridding me of my lingering judgmental attitude toward others in various life situations such as driving. Unfortunately, this judgmental attitude is all too common for almost everyone, to some degree, until God reveals our ignorance to us and trains us out of it.
May God bless you and keep you safe in His loving arms this day.