The movie confirms Schaeffer’s observations. A squadron of young flyers developing daylight bombing techniques over Nazi Germany was suffering too many casualties. A wise higher-up saw that their commanding officer was not instilling the proper discipline and replaced him. The fliers learned that discipline creates order, and order allows the required virtues to develop to face an enemy and win. They won.
It’s hard to imagine in our post-Viet Nam era that the larger culture once honored these virtues. I would have seen the movie as one more piece of candy from the Hollywood fantasy machine if the recommendation came from someone other than a former sailor. We’ve drifted a long way from the things that matter.
Old conceits die hard like they did for the fictional father in Schaeffer’s book (and perhaps for Schaeffer himself). For many tail-end boomers, the discovery that the military preserves many of the virtues that conservatives work hard to restore may come as a pleasant surprise. It should deepen our respect for the men and women who maintain them despite their failures from time to time.
“Is a soldier’s death honorable even if he fights in an unpopular war?” Yes, it can be. Self-sacrifice is a virtue that draws legitimacy not from the political exigencies surrounding a war, but from a higher constellation of virtues. Baby Jack shows us that despite the increasing brokenness and corruption in the world, that higher place is still important.