Opinion & Essay

Marine Begging Elite School To Pay for His MBA Is Peak ‘Veteran Entitlement Syndrome’

March 30, 2021Carl Forsling
Photo by Avery Cocozziello on Unsplash.

Photo by Avery Cocozziello on Unsplash.

Nearly two decades into a war on terror, American service members and veterans enjoy strong public support. And while a certain amount of “thank you for your service” is always warranted, even in peacetime, some veterans seem to suffer with what I call “veteran entitlement syndrome” — the perception that society owes them far more than the benefits for which they signed a contract to secure through service. 

Simply put, some veterans seem to expect an unreasonable amount of special treatment, and a Marine captain recently took veteran entitlement to new heights with an open letter published by the Marine Corps Times. In “Dear Cambridge, help me pay for school. Sincerely, a U.S. Marine veteran,” Capt. Daniel Robb passionately flexes his veteran entitlement with a lack of self-awareness usually reserved for the oversized egos of the most obtuse junior enlisted members who got out with a general discharge.

I initially thought Robb’s letter was some kind of elaborate performance art — something like a satirical commentary on Gen Z, veteran entitlement, and the high price of college education. But apparently he’s completely serious. 

Robb seems to be a reasonably smart guy. He got into the MBA program at one of the top universities not just in the US, but in the world — Cambridge University in England, alma mater of Sir Isaac Newton. And good for him. That Post-9/11 GI Bill will sure come in handy.

But as Robb loudly laments, the GI Bill won’t cover the whole tab at Cambridge or other “top 20” MBA programs. Oddly enough, Cambridge University, a college in England (which I am told is possibly not part of the US), doesn’t even have a Yellow Ribbon program to cover tuition not paid by the (American) GI Bill. Can you believe the disgusting lack of (American) patriotism shown by those limey bastards?

Read Next: What Does It Mean To Be a Patriot? A Brief History of the Word and How It Could Unite Us

Cambridge University. Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash.

With his open letter, Robb has essentially sought to replicate the effect of that cringey YouTube trend a few years back where military members would, essentially, publicly shame celebrities into attending military social events. He tries to call out Cambridge for not thanking him enough for his service … in the military of another country. 

Somewhere, the ghost of Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly is saying, “C’mon, you son of a bitch. I didn’t go through the wheat under German machine-gun fire so you could blatantly show your ass to effete Europeans like this.”

“The cost of paying for a top school that will get me where I want to be is daunting,” Robb writes (unironically) in his open letter. To quote Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, “The horror!” 

So Robb is saying the highest-quality goods cost more than those in less demand? For someone who wants to go into business, this seems a pretty elementary observation. While he notes that “Merit based scholarships are very difficult to come by as a result of the sheer amount of competition,” that’s kind of just another way of stating the definition of the word “merit.” 

Apparently, Robb’s pretty smart, but not merit-based-scholarship-to-Cambridge smart. There’s no shame in that. For most people, not getting the scholarship would be a wake-up call. Maybe if you can’t afford option 1, you need to look at option 2. As my mom used to say, “He has a champagne taste and a beer budget.” 

It seems Robb has either forgotten business basics or is going for the age-old marketing tactic of prostituting himself. If that Cambridge degree is so valuable, then the return on investment, or what wannabe MBAs call ROI, should justify taking out loans to pay for the fees not covered by the GI Bill. If not, maybe Robb needs to think about state school. UC Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, and UT Austin all have top 20 programs. I assume Robb thinks anything without a British accent is slumming, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Cambridge University’s Hall of Fame includes Isaac Newton, Alfred Tennyson, and Francis Bacon. Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash.

Instead of reevaluating his priorities, Robb decided to pimp himself out publicly, and the Marine Corps Times decided it’d be great fun to allow an officer to show his ass to the world. I actually salute the Times for that. This is Terminal Lance-level satire.

While filled with self-aggrandizement and self-pity, Robb’s letter makes a couple good points. Although changing demographics likely explain most of the change, the number of veterans in CEO suites has indeed declined over the years. While Robb’s piece verges on self-parody by harping on the value of  “humble leaders” in the military, veterans should indeed be part of what constitutes diversity in top universities. In fact, admitting more veterans is yet another route toward the ethnic, social, and economic diversity most top universities seek. 

But begging for free shit isn’t a policy proposal, and a foreign university isn’t a valid target for that anyway. TYFYS is not something that crosses borders. Would it be nice if more top graduate programs valued military experience in lieu of academic experience? Absolutely. Does that mean that Robb deserves a free ride to Cambridge? Absolutely not. 

While the GI Bill is an extremely generous educational benefit for veterans, it’s not a program that’s supposed to fulfill every veteran’s wish. It’s supposed to fill their needs. Going to an elite MBA program in another country is much more in the “want” than the “need” category. 

America can and should commit to fulfilling the transitional needs of veterans. Fulfilling all veterans’ wants is a never-ending task that would be a fool’s errand for American universities, and it’s certainly not a worthwhile endeavor for foreign ones.

Noblesse oblige is a phrase every Marine officer learns in our early training. Nobility obliges. Being an officer means you have more obligations and deserve less, not more, than those you lead. Perhaps Capt. Robb should reflect on his blessings and good fortune on his admission to Cambridge and less on his supposed entitlement to a world-class education on someone else’s dime.

Carl Forsling
Carl Forsling
Carl Forsling is a retired Marine Corps aviator who has also served as a police helicopter pilot and currently works in the aerospace industry. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
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