Monday, June 11, 2012

June 9 Photo: Your View Today

Today, we attended my brother-in-law’s graduation from Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I had no idea what to expect. Would it be similar to a university graduation ceremony, with long boring speeches and long dull lists of names? Would it be typical military, with crisp marching, salutes, and terse practicality rather than pomp? It turns out that it was somewhere in between.

Since we had two small children with us, I admit that I missed a good deal of the keynote speech so I can’t comment on whether or not it was boring, but I can certainly attest that even if it was, there were plenty of other interesting things to look at while ignoring it. First of all, despite its name, the Army War College serves students from all branches of the U.S. Armed Services as well as foreign military officers, so the graduates’ uniforms alone were quite a fascinating study in the varying styles of military dress uniforms throughout the world: Navy officers (including my brother-in-law) in pristine, crisp whites; Army men in gold-striped pants and flared jackets; Air Force officers with double-breasted jackets; foreigners in khaki or navy jackets with unfamiliar berets or hats (sorry, Steven – “covers”); and all of the above with shiny gold buttons, spit-shined shoes, and enough ribbons and medals to sink a proverbial battleship. And the families in the crowd reflected the far-reaching homes of the graduates. I noted several women wearing saris, a burka, a kimono, and a few gorgeously ornate Middle Eastern looking dresses that I don’t know the names of. Even the American women were holding our own, fashion-wise, in elegant sundresses and many of us (yes, US – me included) sporting fancy and colorful hats.

But I think that the most colorful display of all may have been the lineup of flags representing the nationalities of all the graduates in the class.
(I apologize for the fuzziness of the photo. I was unaware at the time that some small gooey fingers had been poking at my camera lens.)
In my mind, the international flavor of the event was one of the highlights. After all, this is a celebration of people who are learning the art of war, and there’s something innately sad that this world has a need of people with such knowledge. But the fact that people from other countries come here to learn about war from us and with us, reassures me that not only are they learning about war, but they are learning how to prevent war. And a world that wants to learn more about preventing war is a world that I want to live in. A world full of many different uniforms and many different flags, but all sharing the wish to keep that world a peaceful place for all of us who live in it.

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