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Could steak-loving warriors withstand vegetarian assault?

While we're on the apocalyptic subject of defending America's fighting forces from gays and lesbians, I think the ban should be broadened to include another threat: vegetarians. In the Twin Falls, Idaho, Times News, Robert Johnson, a facetious citizen, floated the idea.

If Norman Schwarzkopf and his aide-de-camp Sam Nunn claim that heterosexuals aren't safe in the showers from gays, think about meat-eating warriors in the chow line with a vegetarian. What if it's out-of-the-closet time? "I'll take a plate of organic soybeans, a side dish of browned tofu and another of stir-fried collards, and sprinkle it with a pinch of lima sea salt. And where's the carrot juice and herbal energizer pills?"

Allowing avowed and open vegetarians in the military would fracture unit cohesion. An army, as Napoleon knew, fights on its stomach. If the abdomens of our soldiers aren't filled three times a day with meat plus a ladle or two of gravy, how can it maintain the fighting edge?

The military is the country's stoutest enclave of he-man toughness, where the masculine ethos needs to be reinforced over a giant, well-marbled steak because that's the dinner of a man's man. Marty Feldman, the late comedian, recalled that during World War I when his father was in the army, "(he) could not eat meat because he was an Orthodox Jew. He practically starved to death and was treated with great contempt by the other soldiers because a soldier should eat steak."

The military has trouble aplenty stopping gay rights without attacks from the veggie rights crowd. If allowed in the military, vegetarians would be pushing their life-styles onto every carnivore on the base. They would seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the salad bars. They would sneak copies of Vegetarian Times into the barracks while confiscating Soldier of Fortune. In the battleship bunks -- where Sam Nunn and John Warner went the other day to see whether any gays were causing trouble -- what's to keep a vegetarian waking the soldier next to him and whispering seductively, "I've got an extra granola bar with no preservatives; want one?"

No question exists that vegetarians would undermine morale in the ranks. Look at their assaults on the meat industry and its sacred cow, the hamburger. Vegetarians in Watkins Glen, N.Y., persuaded the local operator of Burger King to offer a meatless Beanburger. It was imported from England, made of legumes, grains, vegetables and spices. Sales this spring had been strong. Burger King headquarters took note. Now the Watkins Glen franchise is experimenting with an American-made soy and wheat-based ovo-lacto veggieburger.

The Senate Armed Services Committee needs to call hearings on the vegetarians in the military. Questions worth exploring: How should meat-eaters protect themselves in the mess hall if they accidentally use a tray that a vegetarian used last time? Can vegetarians be trusted with combat orders to kill the enemy if they won't eat meat because they know it's a killed cow? Will there come a time when the Marines tell their recruiters: Give us a few good vegetarians?

As far as I know, no military leader has yet to risk his career by announcing he prefers soybean curd to sirloin. For a time, I thought I knew of a closet vegetarian in the Pentagon, Gen. Merrill McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff. He invited me to breakfast a while back in his private dining room at the Pentagon. I expected him to dig into a couple of helpings of ham and sausage, exactly what any bemedaled, red-blooded general needs to sustain his war readiness. Instead, McPeak, a companionable host, picked lightly at a bowl of raw oatmeal. Then he became a real flamer: He mixed in nuts and oat bran. The good general was grazing, not eating.

Holy cow! Who else in the media knew that the nation's top airman started the day meatlessly? Should I out McPeak? My fears subsided when I spoke with him some time after and asked to be reassured that he was only a vegetarian at breakfast and the rest of the time was one of the boys. True, he said. He was no vegetarian.

Close call. McPeak might have been forced to resign. Although an aberrational breakfast is nothing that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we should still keep an eye on McPeak. As on all of our military. No gays, no lesbians, no vegetarians. That's the meat of it.
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Title Annotation:military gay ban - humor
Author:McCarthy, Colman
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 18, 1993
Words:738
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