From: New USAF Academy Cadet’s Mother’s E-Mail Address Withheld
To: Mikey Weinstein
Date: June 23, 2017 at 3:54:59 PM MDT
Subject: Please Help Us About the AF Academy
Good afternoon Mr. Weinstein,
My name is (name withheld) and I am the mother of (name withheld) a new AF Academy cadet about to enter next week into the Academy’s summer basic training with the new Class of 2021.
My husband (name withheld) and I have a very serious concern about our (son or daughter) which we’d like to ask you about. Please do not release our names, Mr. Weinstein.
A few years ago MRFF placed a “Parental Advisory” on the Air Force Academy due to Christian-based religious evangelizing and proselytizing. We only found out about this fact a week or so ago when the parents of another newly entering cadet in the Class of 2021 called us about it. When I tried to contact the Academy no-one there would give me the time of day about this troubling fact. You could tell they know all about the MRFF but it was like they all had muzzles on and could not or would not answer any of our ??s. We tried many times all to no avail. Same “no response” when the other parents tried as well. The AF Academy’s refusal to address our concerns has made this all the more worse. We are losing sleep over it all now.
Next, my husband and I went on to various Air Force Academy internet forums and chat rooms from “Parents Associations” to those with other names. Boy did we ever get responses. Very bad ones.
Last evening was a real doozy. When we asked about MRFF’s Parental Advisory the hatred just poured out. The mean things that were said about you and your children who graduated were hurtful and we were not prepared for any of this. Why would we have been? Much of it was just aimed at your Jewish faith and was very personal about you and your family in a shocking way. But the derogatory insults hurled at you, your wife, your sons and daughter-in-law and some others apparently connected to or with or part of your family was just appalling. We finally deleted it as it was not helping to read it over again. We have not told our (son or daughter) about this and don’t plan to yet. We did not want (him or her) to accidentally read it either.
We’re (Protestant denomination withheld) and live in (city and state withheld). I am a public school teacher and teach (education level withheld) and my husband is a physician (medical specialty withheld) and we don’t have much military in our family. We have (number withheld) other children but (name withheld) is our eldest and the first to go off to college. We’re pretty lost right now and, frankly, scared for our (son or daughter). We need some help please, sir.
Please don’t release any of our personal name or town identification information as we don’t want to hurt our (son or daughter) before he/she even starts basic training at the AF Academy next week. But we have no restrictions about our concerns otherwise being shown.
My husband and I would like to be listed right away with the MRFF as needing its help immediately. How do we sign up and is there a cost? In an effort to try to find answers, we have finished your book “No Snowflake In An Avalanche” and have ordered your wife’s book too but it’s not here yet. We have been all over your website too.
Could you please call us at (phone number withheld) before too long, sir?
Thank you for the consideration, Mr. Weinstein and thank you for having the MRFF available for us as we are in strange and frightening territory here. And the AF Academy’s “loud” silence is not helping the matter at all.
(name, address, city, state and phone numbers all withheld)
Response from Senior USAF Officer and USAF Academy Graduate:
From: Senior USAF Officer and USAF Academy Graduate’s E-Mail Address Withheld
Date: June 23, 2017 at 5:00:59 PM MDT
To: Mikey Weinstein
Subject: Re: Please Help Us About the AF Academy
Dear Class of 2021 Parents,
First, congrats to you and you appointee for earning a spot in the Class of 2021–well done on all of your parts! I am a senior Air Force officer and USAFA graduate who has spent his entire career (it seems, sometimes) navigating my way through an Air Force that condones and even encourages blatant proselytization and religious bias/bigotry. Two other members of my immediate family are graduates of USAFA, too, and both have similar experiences. I’ve seen letters like yours from far too many parents over the years (forwarded to me by Mikey and the MRFF) to believe that the problem is going away. I will say, though, that today there are more legitimate, effective ways to address these problems than in the past. This isn’t necessarily because USAFA leadership has been all that proactive about the problem, but rather more from the cry of so many–mostly through the MRFF and Mikey’s support–that have been negatively affected.
Let me be honest with you. Your appointee WILL face unwanted judgment and proselytization at USAFA from other cadets (primarily if they are anything but the most strident fundamentalist evangelical Protestant). I can’t stop that. On SOME (but not most) levels, that’s allowable if it’s a peer-to-peer conversation. Where the problem arises is when these bullies use the military hierarchy to achieve their goals, overtly or sometimes in more nuanced ways (e.g., forced prayers and inclusion of very evangelical perspectives into “training” situations, pressure to attend certain services and events). If that happens, then your cadet has recourse through a variety of channels. There is a Cadet Freethinker Club for non-religious and other cadets that also acts as a support mechanism for cadets bullied by the evangelicals. There are also a significant number of officers who are available to help stationed at USAFA or who are local to the area but in close contact with the Academy. I’m one of them. I’ve answered letters like this for years. Here’s my advice: don’t give in. Your cadet’s beliefs are their own and they’re private. They can and will succeed regardless of if they “fit in” with the vocal evangelicals or not, even if they do face some challenges. I am nearby. Mikey always knows how to reach me. I can reach out to cadets and staff I trust that can help more directly, too. You can contact me anonymously. Whatever works. We faced this with one of our children, too.
Even with these challenges, USAFA is still worth it–I assure you. Despite my concerns and reservations, I remain a passionate advocate for USAFA and what it should be. Moreover, we’re not going to make it better, more accepting, and more effective at producing great officers to serve this nation unless you and we continue to stand up where and when we can. Air Force Policy is on our side (ref: AF Instruction 1-1) even if it is often ignored in practice. More importantly, the CONSTITUTION is on our side. More than once I’ve told folks here that they need to realize that no religious perspective or belief is a necessary or sufficient condition for honorable service in our military. That’s the most succinct way I can put it.
Your cadet is strong enough to get into USAFA. He or she will be strong enough to overcome these bullies–be better for it, and make the Air Force better in turn. And remember, I’m a phone call or e-mail away. And Mikey and the MRFF are available literally around-the clock.