Military service is in my blood. My father was a 3-Star General in the U.S. Air Force, my uncle a 3-Star General in the Army. Both are highly decorated Vietnam veterans. My father-in-law, a decorated Korean and Vietnam War veteran, retired as a Colonel in the Marine Corps. My husband is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a retired Colonel from the Marine Corps Reserves who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. From a young age, the high calling of wearing the uniform surrounded me.
When I graduated from college, I decided to serve too. I was first recruited for the Marine Corps in the fall of 1975, right when Hillary Clinton claims to have wanted to join the Marines. I began Officer Candidate School with Company C in Quantico, Virginia the next year. It was the first female class required to do everything that men did, which led to being featured on the cover of Life Magazine. Although a medical issue kept me from completing my training and becoming a Marine officer, my experience doesn’t jibe with the yarn which Hillary Clinton has been selling for years on the campaign trail and is now the subject of renewed scrutiny.
First, some context. In the wake of the Vietnam War, the United States military was having difficulty recruiting individuals for service. The draft had ended and the United States was shifting to an all-volunteer force. To boost numbers, the military began to recruit from nontraditional sources, and made it easier than ever for women to join. In spite of these realities, Hillary Clinton claims that the recruiter she talked to immediately dismissed her from consideration because she was told “you’re too old, you can’t see, and you’re a woman.”
This rationale for disqualification would not have come during an initial recruiting talk. With Mrs. Clinton’s college and law school credentials, a Marine recruiter would have quickly referred her to an Officer Selection Officer (OSO), who recruits future Marine officers. The Marine Corps at that time was very much in need of lawyers. It makes no sense that a recruiter would have rejected outright a female (very in-demand) Yale Law grad who had served on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation. The Marine OSO would have undoubtedly contacted her, and probably asked her to apply to be a Marine Judge Advocate General (lawyer), and would have been thrilled to sign her up. She likely would have been in Officer Candidate School as soon as her application was processed.
Secondly, the argument that her eyesight would have disqualified her is also specious. At the time, women did not serve in combat positions where eyesight was scrutinized. The Marine Corps had numerous positions which did not require even average eyesight, especially in legal work. And she wouldn’t have been disqualified on the basis of her eyesight after one conversation with a single recruiter, who was not trained to make such a determination.
Lastly, one can become a Marine officer up to his or her 28th birthday, so her age (26 at the time) would not have precluded her from service.
It is disappointing to hear Hillary Clinton tell such a murky story. Going through Officer Candidate School would have been good for Hillary’s personal character development. The military training process knocks down everyone so that real leaders can rise to the standards and honor worthy of an officer. Her character might have been molded to make a worthy President. As we now know, it was not.