The organizers of the Hopkinton Military Essay Contest, open to high school students who are residents of Hopkinton, announced the event’s winners.
Hopkinton High School senior Timothy Fargiano was awarded first place, which includes a $1,000 scholarship, for his essay titled “The U.S. Military, Guarantors of Global Freedom.”
Marisa Alicandro took second place and $500 for her essay “Why We Fight.” There was a tie for third place between Thrusha Puttaraju (“The Evils of War”) and Kevin Gu (“Our Lighthouse”).
The contest was presented by the Association of the United States Army with support from local sponsors Phipps Insurance Agency and UniBank.
Among those evaluating the essays were Joseph DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven and a civilian aide to the secretary of defense, state Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Hopkinton veterans Hank Allessio, Pat Lynch and Dick Brault, while local attorney Ted Hoyt, a West Point alumnus and retired Green Beret, led the organizational efforts.
Below is the winning essay.
The United States Military: Guarantors of Global Freedom
By Timothy Fargiano
On a frigid, snowy morning in Springfield, Massachusetts, a group of around 1,200 rebels, led by Daniel Shays, a disillusioned farmer from Hopkinton, attacked a state armory. The rebels wished to seize munitions from the armory, leveraging their newfound power to liberate imprisoned debtors and challenge the Massachusetts government. At the root of their concerns were recent acts, passed under Governor Bowdoin, that empowered elite creditors and enabled imprisonment of debtors if they could not pay their debts. Shays’ men were met at the armory by members of a private army raised by Governor Bowdoin and funded by Boston businessmen. After a brief skirmish, the rebels, with their inferior arms and training, were repulsed, and the revolution was quashed. Yet the ideals for which the rebels fought survived, and, the following year, the new governor, John Hancock, passed legislation to reverse Bowdoin’s policies and ameliorate the desperate economic conditions that had driven the rebellion in the first place.
The rebellion, aside from just securing greater rights for Massachusetts debtors, had a secondary effect, one that would far outlast the concerns of Shays and his followers. At the time of the rebellion, the nation’s political climate was turbulent. Preeminent members of the nation’s political spheres were beginning to debate a replacement for the ineffective Articles of Confederation, the agreement that ruled the fledgling United States. The articles had, in an attempt to abolish any monarchical tendencies from the new revolutionary government, established a weak central government with very little power to control the states or enforce federal policies outside of a very limited scale of powers. For proponents of a stronger federal government, Shays’ rebellion came at a fortuitous time. The rebellion highlighted the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation, especially by underscoring the military weakness of the Articles’ government. The federal government lacked both the power to enforce troop requests from the states and the power to tax and fund the military. As the delegates gathered, far from the farms of Hopkinton, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, proponents of a larger central government saw Shays’ rebellion as indicative of the need for a stronger national military. Thus, the stage was set for the formation of the modern American military.
In sharp contrast to the Articles, the new U.S. Constitution contained the requisite powers for the formation of a viable military. The President was endowed with the role of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but the President’s role was limited by assuming that role only when called upon by Congress. Congress, for its part, was given the power to declare war, give advice and consent for treaties, raise the army, navy, and militia, and regulate the armed forces of the country. These provisions were designed to divide power amongst the branches of government, as was the ability of state governors to raise and maintain their own militias. This vision of the military was limited; President Washington, in his famous farewell address, urged the United States to avoid alliances and interests that would draw the United States into foreign wars.
The founders’ version of the military was highly limited, defensive, and local. They saw a military as a necessary deterrent for foreign threats, an integral part of a viable state, and a method of asserting the viability of an incipient democracy. In 2020, 232 years after the ratification of the Constitution, the role of the United States Armed Forces has evolved drastically. Today, the United States maintains over eight hundred extranational military bases, employs over 1.4 million active duty soldiers, and has an annual budget of $748 billion, a total greater than the next seven countries combined. As our society continues to debate public spending in the United States, some question the role of America in the world, and the purpose of maintaining such a broad military. We must, then, as a nation, attempt to answer the questions: What is the purpose of our expansive military, and do we need such a large military?
To answer these questions, we must delve into the role that the military plays in modern American foreign policy and in the global community as a whole. One of the most important functions the United States military performs is as a deterrent to conflicts around the globe. In the atomic era, most major global wars are prevented before they begin; the threat of nuclear weapons has largely eliminated war between leading global powers. Additionally, increased global economic interconnectedness disincentivizes most countries from launching economy-disrupting wars. Yet the vast majority of countries throughout the world lack nuclear weapons, thus also lacking the deterrent necessary to independently discourage potential invaders. As the major power with the most expansive military, the United States employs its armed forces to broaden its sphere of deterrence to defend and protect major allies and strategic partners. This is perhaps best exemplified through U.S. participation in NATO, and the role that NATO plays as a collective deterrent against threats to its weakest members. The strongest example of America’s powerful deterrence capability is the case study of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia (which will be referred to collectively as the Baltic States). The Baltic States lie on the periphery of modern Russia, sandwiched between mainland Russia and the heavily-armed Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (formed when East Prussia was divided after Germans were expelled from the territory in World War II). The Baltic States, as part of NATO, play host to American and European military bases and enjoy the support of promises of defense in case of a Russian invasion. In the context of Russia’s aggressive irredentist behavior, especially regarding its political domination of Belarus and its military invasions of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, the threat of a Russian invasion is very real and highly dangerous. The other aforementioned states are similar to the Baltic States — they once constituted parts of the Soviet Union, they possess Russian-speaking minorities remnant from the Soviet era, and they have sometimes sought closer relations with the Western world — yet while the others face either major Russian interference or have contended with Russian invasions, the Baltic States have never been invaded by Russia due to the strong deterrent that NATO, headed by the United States Armed Forces, provides.
In this way, the United States military serves, to many countries around the world, as a guarantor of freedom and self-determination. The U.S. takes up this mantle all around the world, maintaining bases in vulnerable countries like Chad, Afghanistan, and South Korea as well as defending international shipping lanes such as those off of the Horn of Africa and in the South China Sea. To some, these actions are seen as American overreach, a modern form of imperialism aimed at maintaining the United States’ grip on power. While it must be acknowledged that the United States has not always fought for the ideals we espouse, we have attempted to learn from misguided and harmful conflicts in which we have engaged, and to become better stewards of the power endowed in us as the world’s greatest superpower. And for all of the faults of America, despite the misguided wars and interventions that scatter our nation’s history, modern-day America plays a vital role in furthering democracy around the world, championing the oppressed and downtrodden, and standing up for the freedom to dissent, to engage in open dialogue, and to respectfully disagree with others. In countries like Afghanistan, this manifests itself in the dogged adherence to the ideal of democracy for all and pursuit of an Afghanistan of equal opportunity, a land where freedom could be enjoyed by all. In operations throughout Africa, the United States attempts to mediate conflicts and enable incipient democracies to peacefully and fairly prosper. And in military bases in communities across the world, American soldiers sacrifice their comfort, time with their families, and their ease of life to defend the ideals of peace, freedom, and global prosperity.
In this quest to fulfill our modern role as guardians of freedom, the chief ambassadors and representatives of American ideals are its soldiers. For many people around the world, especially in developing countries, American soldiers serve as the primary representatives of the things that our nation as a whole represents: freedom, respect, and service. This somewhat ancillary role of the military is often overlooked and underappreciated, but it is vitally important to engendering positive feelings towards Americans abroad. In countries with little exposure to Americans, especially those with generally anti-American press corps, interactions with American servicepeople provide a chance to see the true character of Americans, and to observe the qualities that the military espouses, like respect, discipline, kindness, and fairness. This aspect of the American military has existed, in various forms, since its inception. A Hopkinton resident, George R. Comey, who served in the Civil War as part of the 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery in 1864, recorded his experiences in a journal that he kept. While serving in the captured New Orleans as a Union soldier, he wrote, “The rebel deserters are coming in by the dozens and reenlisting in the second Louisiana home guards. It is very interesting to converse with them” (Comey). As a soldier in occupied Louisiana, Comey and his compatriots represented the face of the Union to those who so recently wanted to secede from it. And in his everyday actions and his interactions with those around him, he and his fellows represented the beliefs, convictions, and ideals of the United States. From the muddy streets of 1864 Louisiana to the villages of 1944 Normandy to the streets of 2014 Kabul, the United States military has served, and continues to serve, as the face of the goals of America and the beliefs for which we stand.
It is to be concluded, then, that our nation’s military differs quite drastically from that which the founders envisioned it would be. America’s military has become global, expensive, and quite large, with more power and capability than the founders could have imagined. Yet the ideals for which our soldiers fight today remain true to the notions kindled in Philadelphia in 1787. They fight for freedom, opportunity, and hope, and, across the world, they bring peace and prosperity to individual citizens and entire nations alike. As the U.S. military prepares to contend with new challenges to maintaining global peace, we must remember the sacrifices of soldiers in every generation and strive to support our troops in their crucial missions abroad. Above all, we must honor the sacrifices of our forebears, and we must never abate in our pursuit of a more free, more just world.