I read Ron Walters' op-ed article {Dec. 27} and looked for a little insight to the question he raised: Why should blacks fight in the Gulf? Unfortunately, his article left me with more questions than answers. I was extremely disappointed that the chairman of the political science department at Howard University would want to publish such a naive, hard-to-follow and poorly thought-out piece.

Prof. Walters is concerned that 27.8 percent of the troops in Saudi Arabia are black and that this figure is proportionately higher than that of blacks in the general population. He seems to feel there is a white "hidden agenda" to use blacks as cannon fodder in case of war. This may or may not be true. However, I think there may be another answer.

Unlike our soldiers in Vietnam, all of our soldiers (both black and white) in Saudi Arabia are volunteers. I won't argue the point that blacks probably make up a greater percentage of enlisted personnel than the officer corps, but as Prof. Walters states, "The military is the truest meritocratic system we have." I have no sympathy for anyone who volunteers for military service in peacetime and then has second thoughts when he is ordered to the front lines for a potential conflict. What did these people think they were volunteering for, three squares and a roof over their head?

The final point that Prof. Walters tries to make about what the blacks "lucky enough to return" will find misses the point by a mile. For some unknown reason, he tries to tie the recent controversy over college scholarships to what the black soldier will find on his return. He will find exactly what every white soldier will find: the GI Bill will help finance his education, and the Veterans Administration will help him buy a house.


My family and I recently had the experience of spending Christmas at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where we bade farewell to my son and his fellow Marines as they left for Saudi Arabia, where their company will patrol well in advance of Marine lines to spot and stop Iraqi tanks.

I returned to read Ron Walters' article {"Why Should Blacks Fight in the Gulf?"}. I found it to be a pathetic, whining disservice to the black men and women who contribute so much to our society and to our country's defense. This is not the 1940s, when the military was segregated; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff now is black. This is not the 1960s, when minorities may have been drafted in disproportion to their numbers; every American in our military service -- including my son -- is a volunteer.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of my son's friends, including black Marines with whom he serves. In our democracy, we rightly debate our government's policy and examine its ambiguities. But these young men knew very well why they were going to Saudi Arabia, and it has nothing to do with scholarships or relative litigation positions. Like their white brothers-in-arms, they went because they are Marines, because they can hack it and because it is their duty.

It seems to me high time that black political and intellectual leaders stop trying to depict these men as victims and pawns. They have earned their self-respect and the respect and gratitude of the American public as well. They don't deserve to be patronized with pity or used to further someone's social agenda.