Military has to be biased, but liberals don't get it

MIKE ROYKO

April 14, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

I'm surprised nobody has raised a fuss about one of the mos blatant examples of discrimination in the military services.

No, I'm not talking about the ban on gays, which is being thoroughly explored by Congress, the White House and the nation's talk shows.

And not women in combat, either. That has already become an issue, with some feminists demanding that women be equal-opportunity occupants of foxholes.

I'm talking about age discrimination -- judging someone not on what he can do but how many years have passed since his birth.

Most people probably don't know it, but if a person is 36 years old, he will be rejected by all branches of the military.

Think about that. If you are a sports fan, you know that there are superb athletes who are 36 or older still excelling in just about every professional sport.

There have been boxing champions 36 or older; baseball home run kings and speedy infielders; fleet wide receivers and terrifying linemen; slam-dunking basketball stars; and many others.

You can go to gyms and health clubs all over America and find men 36 and older who are perfect physical specimens. They run miles every day, pump iron or practice delivering a death-dealing toe-kick to an imaginary foe's nose.

If you walked up to them and said: "You are old, too old, you geezer," some might twist your head so that you could look down at your spine.

Yet, if one of these Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alikes went to a recruiting office, that's what he would be told. Never mind doing 150 push-ups, bench-pressing 300 pounds and running five miles, the recruiter would say something like: "Sorry, old-timer."

The patriot could even say, "In my younger days, I was a Marine, so I am already a trained killer; and I have since obtained advanced degrees in government administration, military history, international relations; and I am a licensed helicopter pilot, a paramedic, have 20-15 vision and every tooth in my head is my own. Please, let me defend my country."

To no avail. The rules say that 35 is the age limit, and that is that.

Is that fair? Considering how sensitive we have become to all forms of discrimination, it doesn't appear to be. But that is only one of the many ways the military discriminates.

If you have asthma, you will be rejected, even though it can be controlled medically. They will turn you down if you have too many allergies, which can also be treated. If you are real skinny, that might please your physician, but the recruiter will show you the door. You can be too tall or too short. (I should probably say differently heighted.)

You must have a high school diploma. To shoot a rifle? Why, our big cities are filled with teen-age dropouts who are already crack shots.

Most people know that the military is not in the fairness business. Nor is it meant to be a sociological playpen for pressure groups and professional cause-seekers.

As a career combat officer once told me: "The military does one thing: kill people and break things.

"You are a part, so you gotta fit into the equipment. If you don't fit into the other parts, you're not acceptable."

So it doesn't matter that you might be the world's most heroic, perfectly coordinated, physically splendid 36-year-old. They have to have an age limit, and 35 is it.

Of course, there is some logic to the limit. If you enlist at 36 and plan to make a career of the military, you might not be combat-spry in 20 years.

And while asthma and allergies are treatable, the military would rather not have you wheezing and sniffling if you are assigned to the point in enemy territory.

While this might seem obvious to people with an ounce of common sense, it doesn't seem to sink in to the feminists and liberal males (none of whom have ever been on latrine duty) who are yammering on TV about the right of women to serve in combat roles.

They just scoff when someone mentions that the commander of a combat unit has enough to think about without the added concern of a female combat soldier being gang raped if captured. Or the obvious physical differences between the sexes.

As one angry female political commentator sniffed on CNN the other day: "Modern wars are fought differently." She should pass that profound insight along to some of the rape victims in Bosnia.

Open gaiety in the military and now females in combat.

I knew President Clinton didn't want to serve in the military. But is it now necessary to see how much he can goof it up?

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