History professor Tony Grafton, speaking at Princeton’s annual Veterans Day Service Nov. 12, called on the University to provide more support for those who have served in the military.
“Probably Princeton will never again have its own field artillery unit, with 70 horses and hundreds of members, as it did in the 1920s, or a course on ‘hippology’ in its curriculum,” Grafton said to about 125 people in the University Chapel. “But we can, and should, do a great deal more than we have.”
Grafton, who has written on the importance of the academy understanding the role of the armed forces, said that Veterans Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the debt that Americans owe to its veterans.
“As professors, students, and members of the Princeton University community, we should demand that our university support the military in every way that is consistent with its own larger enterprise, and that it offer opportunities to as many veterans as possible, as it did in the years just after World War II,” Grafton said.
He said that as a young faculty member, many of his senior colleagues were veterans who brought to their scholarship and teaching a sense of reality, of a world outside the academy … They didn’t talk about their service, but it had shaped them.”
Grafton said that he and his wife are university teachers of a different era, but that the military “suddenly mattered to us, in an urgent way,” when their son Samuel joined the Marines and became a helicopter pilot from 2002 to 2011. Through his son’s military experience, he said, he had learned about brotherhood, meritocracy, education, and above all about sacrifice.
And while those in the military “do not always live up to the stringent demands of their codes of conduct,” he said, “military ideals and military practices have achieved striking successes in areas where our civil society has failed.”
Following the service, six students were sworn in on the Chapel steps as ROTC cadets, including five Princeton freshmen and one from the College of New Jersey. The University’s ROTC unit has 27 students enrolled.