The Words of the Burton Family
Second Generation Unificationists in Iraq and Afghanistan number among more than 40 church members who have answered their country’s call to serve on this Veterans Day.
According to Marine Sgt. Justin Harding, who keeps an informal list of Second Generation members in the military, more than 12 brothers and sisters have served in combat zones, and more are on the way. At least 19 are currently serving in the U.S. Army, eight in the Marine Corps, six in the U.S. Navy, two in the Air Force, and seven have retired from the military. At least 11 are students or graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Spc. Ian Scott, 23, from Edgewater, Maryland, told Familyfed.org that he is finding his work in Iraq, where he serves in an Army intelligence unit, “awesome.” Spc. Scott prepared himself for public service by earning the rank of Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scout Troop 1212 and by serving in the character development program known as Special Task Force. “A life experience such as the military is invaluable. It's an extreme I can compare to my STF experience, where something that takes you way out of your comfort zone allows you to learn a whole lot and live a wide range of experiences. It can solidify your work ethic; there's not a lot of room for not giving your best when other people's lives depend on what you do,” he wrote in an e-mail from Iraq.
Sgt. Harding, a First Generation mentor to many Second Gen considering military service, is perhaps the most decorated, outspoken, and best-known Unificationist warrior in the United States, having served four tours in Iraq. “Before I am a Marine, I am a Unificationist -- a proud Unificationist brother who is grateful to have been called out of the Wilderness and taught the Divine Principle by True Parents,” he wrote in this year’s Memorial Day message for Familyfed.org.
Those he has counseled include Israel Frank, 21, a student at San Diego State University and a veteran of three years of Special Task Force who is determined to join the U.S. Marine Corps when he graduates. Mr. Frank is undergoing platoon leader training and will enter Officer Candidate School this summer. "As an American, I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I didn't want to have just an ordinary life, work every day in a cubicle, and have a happy little family like everyone else," he says. Mr. Frank says that there was some resistance from his mother and his father, San Diego pastor Walter Frank, until it was clear that his mind was made up.
“Most parents of Blessed Children I know say they would rather have their children go to Next Gen Academy or to college or so many other things rather than join the military. It is just a natural instinct of a parent to want to keep their children out of harm’s way,” Sgt. Harding told Familyfed.org. “I feel that each Blessed Child who joins the military does so rooted in their faith but not necessarily due to the church. The fact is that some people desire to physically fight evil in the world,” he explains.
Rev. Tom Cutts, a Unification Church District Director in Atlanta, says he had some reservations when his son, Brian Cutts, told him he wanted to try to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. “I didn’t want him to become a trained killer. But I support the U.S. military in the sense that there are bad people and nations from whom our nation needs to be defended,” Reverend Cutts says.
Those heading to Iraq include Airman Jonathan Swarts, son of Rick and Lourdes Swarts of Pennsylvania. Airman Swarts, 20, is stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and is expecting to transfer to duty in Iraq in March 2010
Airman Swarts says that as a teenager he wasn’t really close to the church but that the people he met in the Air Force helped him to appreciate his Unificationist roots. “I met a really good bunch of people in the Air Force. In a way, I got closer to the Unification faith by being in the Air Force. I got closer to my parents, too,” he told Familyfed.org.
“There seems to be an increasing number of Second Gen entering the military these days,” Sgt. Harding says, adding that “there is no better training ground for excellence than the U.S. military.
“It is definitely a stepping-stone to the higher ranks in society, whether in the civil service or running for elective office. And who wouldn’t want to hire some one who has served his country overseas?” Sgt. Harding asks.
The answer is “no one,” especially those to whom the phrase “patriotism in the nation” strikes a familiar chord.
Sgt. Harding has asked that those who would like to submit names of their relatives in the military to the Blessed Family Prayer Group Ministry may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Douglas Burton