Thank you for publishing the recent column on students who are the first in their families to go to college (“Attention first-generation college students,” Sept. 16). Their journey can be tough, but I know from experience as a former teacher and military officer that these graduates are key to our economy and national security. I also know that some of them will include military service along their journey to higher education.

We tend to think about today’s military in terms of its implements — fast jets, powerful ships, smart weapons — but our armed forces’ most important asset is still our people. Make no mistake about it: our military remains the strongest in the world. But I am concerned about our nation having the number of people and the quality of minds that we will need for our future national security.

The military is facing a shortage of people who are eligible for service. In Maine, 68 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible, mainly because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a history of drug use or crime. First-generation students can help alleviate this shortage.

We also know that many first-generation students face barriers that others do not. Their drive, achievements and successes in the face of their challenges lend well to the type of perseverance and commitment valuable in any profession, including military service.

The military needs more students to achieve, stay fit and stay away from crime and drugs so they can serve, if that is the path they choose.

I applaud the dedication of first-generation students and support and encourage their hard work. It is important they know they are a valued part of our collective future and will help Maine achieve the goal that 60 percent of adults have an education credential of value by 2025.

Earl Adams

Major general, U.S. Army (retired)

Pittston

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