Proud to Be a Virginian

Graphic source: Texas Public Policy Foundation

Virginia does not just employ more than its proportional share of military employees compared to other states, it ranks among the top 5 in the country for enlistments — specifically, the ratio of first-time enlistments to the number of civilian employees. Virginia does not stand alone. It is part of a regional cluster of states extending to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, where young men and women contribute disproportionately to the Armed Services.

As Chuck Devore points out in Forbes, military recruits come disproportionately from the middle class. Local culture and tradition play an important role in the decision to join the military, as does familiarity with uniformed service. For whatever reason, the South Atlantic states have an especially strong tradition of military service.

— JAB

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14 responses to “Proud to Be a Virginian

  1. Excellent. Thank you for posting this.

    It’s interesting that Hawaii is also in the top five.

    • Hawaii has probably the greatest concentration of military bases per square mile of any state, and also the greatest percentage of military personnel to state non-military population. My guess is that a good percentage of enlistments come from children of people in the military living in Hawaii.

  2. What about Laura? Isn’t she proud to be a Tar Heel. I am as far as it goes

  3. As one of those Virginians that chose military service during the Vietnam War, I will say that it largely was a matter of cultural influences. I was raised in Northern Virginia by parents who had been through the depression and my father was a Sergeant in the Army in the Pacific in WWII. All of the men of my parents generation in our neighborhood were WWII veterans and worked for the post-war government agencies, mostly the defense agencies. They used to play neighborhood softball games where the sides were Navy/Marine Corps vs. Army/Army Air Corps veterans from WWII. The broader cultural influences in the states of the old Confederacy stem from a combination of the rural values of those states – hunting and self sufficiency – and their military – both land forces and naval forces – traditions. A huge proportion of the military bases during the cold war were in the South. Nearly the entire Atlantic fleet was stationed in the South, as were large proportion of the Army and Marine bases. When you look at where the land grant universities were located – those that had required participation in the Corps of Cadets and subsequent military service – they were also largely but not exclusively in the states of the old Confederacy. As for the enlisted recruits, back and white, their traditions were the same in the South. After Korea, the United States could not have fielded armed forces without the southerners. Once we went to all volunteer armed forces, the die was cast. The states of the old Confederacy provided the man and woman power. Just true history, not political philosophy.

  4. Each year at graduation I marvel at the young men and women who have enlisted in the armed forces. I always go way out of my way to make those youngsters feel like a million dollars. The number of volunteers enlisting is rising at my school and it is in a well to do neighborhood. I think what they have chosen to do is far greater than their classmates who are moving on to college. It does give me hope that the America I love is going to make it.

  5. Jim,
    Not sure I get the bit about being a “Virginian.” My uncle was an Army doctor who fought with Patton in Europe. My father was a Navy doctor who fought with an amphibious tank unit with the Marines. Both were from Massachusetts. Although I live here, I am not a “Virginian.” I was born in Philadelphia because that was where my father was stationed at the time. Likewise, you are about as much a “Virginian” as I am since you were born in Connecticut because that was where your father, a Navy officer, was stationed at the time. I don’t have any ancestors from this state and I don’t believe you do either, unless I am mistaken. The South has historically been pro military. Part of that is regional patriotism. The other part is the lack of decent paying jobs thanks to stuff like right to work and low minimum wages.

    • You make a good point but I think you are confusing the plantation elite with average Virginians. The plantation elite think that to be a “Virginian” you must be born in Virginia (from Fredricksburg south) preferably to parents who are “real Virginians”. The rest of us outside the plantation elite figure that if you’ve lived in Virginia for some time and consider yourself a “real Virginian” then you are a Virginian … whether you were born anywhere from Baltimore to Bangalore.

      This is a pretty good article from 1992 about the self-proclaimed Virginia aristocracy known as “The First Families of Virginia”. Surprisingly, “Bacon” is not listed among the names. Unsurprisingly, neither “Galuszka” nor “Rippert” are listed either.

      https://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-xpm-19920719-1992-07-19-9207170216-story.html

    • Peter, I’m baffled by your response. I headed the piece, “Proud to Be a Virginian” because (a) this is a Virginia blog, and (b) I consider myself a Virginian, having lived here on-and-off through my childhood since the age of 3 and almost my entire adult life. I’m not dissing North Carolinians — indeed, if I had to pick the state with which I identify the most other than Virginia, it would be North Carolina. As the son of a Navy man, I hold the military in high esteem. I’m just proud that Virginians respond to the call of military service, one of the most noble of professions. It’s that simple.

      As for the “lack of decent paying jobs,” a key point of the Forbes article is that the military draws disproportionately from the middle class. Many Americans don’t make the cut — they couldn’t join if they wanted. Most who do join the military could readily find jobs elsewhere.

      • You’re right that Peter’s argument that there is a lack of opportunity in the South rings hollow. While northern cities often continue to shrink, southern cities continue to grow. If you want to see a lack of opportunity take a look at Buffalo, NY or St Louis, MO. Today, Buffalo is 1/2 the size it was in 1950. These five states lost the most population in 2019 – West Virginia (0.67%), Alaska (0.49%), Illinois (0.40%), New York (0.39%), Hawaii (0.33%). I think it’s reasonable to surmise that states lose population primarily because their residents (and outsiders choosing other places to live) perceive a lack of opportunity. Yet only Hawaii is among the 5 most active recruiting states.

        Peter might believe that rural and small town Virginia is under siege, without opportunity and ripe for military recruiting. Perhaps so, I don’t know. There is certainly a lack of adequate opportunity is some parts of Virginia. Yet of the Top 5 recruiting states only South Carolina is among the 17 states with 30.0% or more of its population living in rural areas (as of 2016).

  6. Ok. Things are better in some parts of the South. But there are still big pockets of poverty in northeastern nc and the Mississippi Delta. And i kinda found virginia by accident. I wanted a summer newspaper job and happened by the Pilot driving from my home in north carolina to college in boston. I had wanted to go to Raleigh

  7. I mean, it was all a big mistake.

  8. I once asked my father what was the turning point in his life in the Marine Corps? Expecting to hear something about Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian, or Iwo Jima, I got a far more profound and surprising answer.

    “Working with young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps helping them help build the Blue Ridge Parkway during the Depression, he said.”

    His group was part of the first camp, NF-1, Camp Roosevelt at George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia set up in 1933.

    These sorts of camps soon spread round the country, employing hundreds of thousands. The typical worker here was unmarried, unemployed, 18–25 years of age, who’s family was on local relief. Only 11% had graduated from high school. 41% had less than an 8th grade education, including 3% illiterates. The rest, 48%, never finished high school. Many started malnourished, ill clothed, and capable only of odd jobs. Many went on to help win the Second World War, including becoming the backbone of the Marine Corps.

    My father, a Maryland prep school boy who dropped out of college, enlisted at 20 in the Marines in 1933, and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant at Quantico in 1934, before these men, and their work and example changed his life.

    “I learned far more from them, than they did from me. They opened up the world for me.”

    His words years later opened up my own.

  9. The great question here is how did these young men, and so many others, with so little education go so far so fast to contribute so much to winning the Second World War?

    To appreciate that immense challenge one must step back and consider the big picture that framed this monster challenge American and these American “kids” confronted.

    Consider that US armed forces grew from 335,000 men in 1939 to 12 million 210 thousand men in 1945, all trained to fight the largest and most technological war in human history, a war fought around the world.

    Think of the enormous educational and training challenges on all levels of human development – emotional, physical, skill and competence building – these kids had to confront and master from a standing start begun within America’s longest and deepest economic depression.

    There must be many answers to how they met this challenge, but several jump out:

    1. These men, including those in the Civilian Conservation Corps, were likely far more educated than the above numbers suggest. Likely, these young men had earlier met a far higher education standard than most kids do today today. Likely back then an 8th grade education was a good as most high school graduates get today. Likely also today there are far more illiterates in our society today than there were in 1936. Fact is we have far lower standards whatever, and little if any discipline in many public schools today.

    2. The quality of the education and training received in the CCC and in the military was also surely of a far higher quality that what many of our kids today get in many public school, not to mention many other challenges that had to encounter and master, whether physical, mental or emotional, all imposed on them by there teachers and instructors where success was demanded.

    3. American youth in 1930s and early 194o also enjoyed the benefits of a far stronger culture that fully supported American kids back (families communities, churches, customs, traditions) that our culture today that largely fails most American kids.

    How can one doubt this given what American youth achieved from 1935 to 1945.

    One way to understand this is to carefully read of a collection of letters written by a 17 year old Marine who joined the Corps right after the 11th grade. The son of a barber, he left home in Wichita, Kansas for first time in summer of 1943. Before his 19th birthday he had fought on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.

    Compare his letters with what you might expect from an American teenager today. I think you’ll be shocked to see the difference.

    For those letters go to:
    http://2ndarmoredamphibianbattalion.com/bootcamp/

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