A&M cadets staunchly conservative
By Sonia Moghe
Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Sonia Moghe, an assistant editor at The Battalion, the student newspaper at Texas A&M University. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Texas A&M University.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (CNN) -- Most members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets say they support the war in Iraq and are likely to vote for George Bush in the upcoming presidential election.
"I believe [the Corps is] strongly Republican and a majority of the people are in support of the current president because he is the commander-in-chief," said senior Justin Woods, public relations officer for the Corps.
Texas A&M Corps is the largest military uniformed body of students in the nation, aside from U.S. service academies, with about 2,000 members, Woods said.
The Corps aims to teach leadership within the framework of a military organization and produces more officers for the Armed Forces than any other Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. It is one of a few schools that offer military commissions in all branches of service.
Senior Corps member Michael Hernandez says the reason cadets tend to support the war is that they can empathize with soldiers.
"[Being in the Corps] lets you understand the sacrifices that people have made for this country," Hernandez said. "You hear stories about guys that go to the military from the A&M Corps of Cadets -- it makes me want to be like that."
Senior Chris Schock, a student at A&M who is not in the Corps, says going to school with students commissioned in the military can be upsetting.
"It can be a little disheartening and frightening knowing that whenever [a student] enters the military service there's a chance they might die," Schock said. "It's very respectable that they have made that commitment to our country."
Former classmate dies in Iraq
A former Corps member, Doyle Hufstedler, class of 2001, recently died in Iraq, leaving behind his pregnant wife.
"We're always taught to take care of our soldiers -- [Doyle] was just out there leading his guys," Hernandez said. "I really do feel proud to say I knew that guy."
Not all members of the Corps are Republicans -- freshman Mary Formaneck is one of a few Democratic members.
"Being a Democrat is a rarity in the Corps, according to my experiences," Formaneck said. "I don't talk about politics because I always get shot down."
Formaneck supports the war, for the most part, because of her desire to be in the military someday and because of her experiences in the Corps.
A&M junior Mickey Rigoulot, however, says his time spent in the Corps and his feelings about the war do not influence who he votes for in the election -- he's more interested in character.
"Kerry is a hypocritical guy who overstated what he did in the Vietnam War," Rigoulot said. "Bush has his faults but overall he'd be a better president."
Schock feels that many students in the Corps support Bush simply because he is their commander-in-chief and not because they truly believe in his actions.
"A lot of [Corps members] have been very conservative and seem [to] almost blindly follow the military actions that we have taken in Iraq from a military standpoint," Schock said.
The presence of former President George H. W. Bush on the A&M campus, along with his support for the Corps, is another reason why senior Reba Villanueva is leaning towards voting for George W. Bush in November. (Full story)
"[Bush Sr.] is very involved in the school and [the Corps]," Villanueva said. "What we're taught in the Corps is love for your country, your families and your neighbors -- camaraderie."