Here’s a moving story by the NY Times’ Samuel Freedman on ROTC graduation at the University of New Hampshire.
From the second seat in the front row of the auditorium, Rachael Brown rose and marched onto the podium, standing before the flags of her state and her nation. She wore the crisp olive coat and skirt of her Class A uniform, and her black flats gleamed with a spit-shine. As a sergeant strode across the stage and toward her, she raised her right hand to be sworn into the United States Army as a second lieutenant.
Three rows from the back of the same room, Karen Brown gazed on this most improbable spectacle. Here was the daughter she had told about her own days protesting against the Vietnam War, the daughter who had led cross-country ski trips through the White Mountains, the daughter who had made that Bulgarian cheese casserole for the international dinner in her dormitory. And that daughter was culminating four years in the R.O.T.C. program at the University of New Hampshire and taking up what soldiers call “the profession of arms.”
After Rachael, 22, had recited the oath, Karen Brown walked to the podium. She had on sandals and a batik peasant dress, and her corn-silk hair fell straight to her shoulders. At the appointed moment, she pinned the second-lieutenant’s bars on Rachael’s uniform. Then she lightly patted the bars, with a tenderness that suggested she was patting her memory of a little girl she wished to protect.
Rachael Brown, who will work in medical support, exchanges e-mails with a female friend who’s now serving as a military engineer in Afghanistan.