Letter to the editor

In response to “Petraeus unfit to mentor USC students”

As veterans pursuing MBAs at the USC Marshall School of Business, we are troubled by Jayel Aheram’s article, “Petraeus unfit to mentor USC students,” in the Daily Trojan. First of all, it should be made clear that Mr. Aheram does not speak for the entire USC veteran community. Second, his opinion piece betrays a lack of comprehension of several things. Among these are the relationship between number of troops and impact of enemy behavior in a theater of war to the number of casualties and the dynamically evolving conditions in an increasingly destabilized Afghanistan during the period in question. More troubling, however, is the near total ignorance his piece demonstrates of the nature and burden of leadership.

Those of us who served long enough to hold command responsibility know the extent of leaders’ efforts to ensure that the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines whose lives are our responsibilities are as prepared as possible, and that the risks they will face are mitigated to the greatest extent possible. We know what it is like to do everything in our power to protect them, and we also know only too well the overwhelming personal anguish felt when those efforts are not enough to bring all of them home alive and well. We can only begin to empathize when that responsibility, those efforts and that anguish are on the scale borne by leaders such as Gen. Petraeus.

Perhaps Mr. Aheram’s antipathy toward Gen. Petraeus percolated from the painful things many veterans of our generation have witnessed in combat. Perhaps it was inspired by any one of the several antiwar and protest organizations for which he is an activist. Either way, he is entitled both to his opinion and to express it, and we vigorously defend his right to do so. Given the disrespectful manner in which he chooses to do so, however, we strongly object to his failure to make abundantly clear that he does not speak for many, if not most, USC veterans.

America’s veterans, like the society we served, are a diverse bunch, and are not universal Petraeus defenders. Some of us are less than impressed with his decision-making, whether personal or professional. The vast majority of us, however, harbor an immense amount of respect for the fact that he is a man who has devoted nearly 40 years of his life to the service of our nation, and for the sacrifices his family has made to support him. Mr. Aheram’s piece was a slight against that service, and we lament that he did not bother to clarify that he speaks for himself, and not other veterans.

The University of Southern California has nearly a century-long heritage of supporting our nation’s veterans and armed forces. We could not be more grateful for the welcome we have received from USC, and the lengths to which this university has gone to ease our transition back to the civilian world. We thank USC for its efforts to prepare us to thrive in the private sector, including its efforts to provide senior-level mentorship for that transition. We look forward to working with Gen. Petraeus and with our fellow veterans, including Mr. Aheram, to ensure that USC’s veterans continue to contribute positively to our Trojan community and to our nation.


Stephanie Soltis, Andrew Guton, Benjamin Watt, Daniel Hauser, Christine Bassitt, Sean Cunningham and Michael Klueber

Members of the board of the Marshall Military Veterans Association 

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