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No Sex? Permission to Speak Freely, Sir.

West Pointers are human beings, even those with names such as David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. I think I have the standing to make this declaration, because I’m a fellow graduate.

West Point is long on molding military officers, but a bit short on humanity. Its mission statement stresses the intent to commit every graduate to a career of professional excellence and service, embodying the values of “duty, honor and country.” How does West Point do that?

Here’s how: Rules! Hundreds upon hundreds of rules that govern every facet of human conduct imaginable, including my favorite: no sex in the barracks.

Yes, to become a leader of character and serve my country well, it is imperative that I not have sex in my college bedroom.

Does West Point succeed in stifling one of the most basic of human urges?

What about cadet couples who are in love and will one day get married and have families?

Does the threat of punishment – namely having to spend a weekend dressed in full parade regalia, marching with a heavy rifle, back-and-forth in a confined area – deter them?

Not so much.

Whether it’s because love (or lust) conquers all, or because ambitious Type-A’s stop at nothing in the face of adversity, cadets soon become experts at evading the no-sex rule. West Point officially designates “Flirtation Walk” as the one area where cadets can enjoy romance. But who, with the exception of the die-hard infantry types who will go on to Ranger school, wants to trek outside, far from the cadet barracks, to do their “flirting”? (Plus, for most of the year, it’s freezing outside in upstate New York.)

So cadets engage one another in the parking lot, behind Battle Monument and in sports equipment rooms, among other places. Many grow tired of navigating these complicated logistics, and succumb to the comfy confines of their bedrooms, breaking myriad rules in the process.

Now throw us into a war zone, and things get really wild.

General Order No. 1 prohibits sex (and alcohol consumption) on an Army deployment. Typical deployments last approximately one year, so if West Point graduates follow the academy’s rules, then they abstain for all four of their college years, plus the year-long deployment. Five years of abstinence is enough to make anyone crazy.

I was a part of the Iraq invasion in 2003. At the time, I was a naive, 24-year-old lieutenant and still a virgin (because of my former Jesus obsession and aversion to cadet marching). I assumed General Order No. 1 would have no impact on my life. I was wrong.

I had no idea that a combat zone would be such a sexually charged environment. Blame it on amped-up testosterone pouring out of aggressive, athletic men. Or blame it on combat stripping even the strongest of men and women down to their core, raw emotions. Combine that with forming special bonds with comrades who promise to do whatever it takes to ensure your safe return home, including sacrificing their life for yours.

What do you think happens?

Let me tell you, covert combat sex (or in my case, hard-core making out, because I was too scared to go “All-In”) ranks high on the list of life’s thrills. I’m a comfortable civilian now, and I know it’s impossible to inject that intense passion back into my life. But I reflect on it almost every day. There’s nothing that compares to making love at war.

What would I do if I were in charge? I’d abolish General Order No. 1. Keep the rules that protect soldiers from sexual harassment. But allow deployed officers and troops to have sex while at war. West Point should come to its senses as well.

West Pointers and other military service members endure tremendous sacrifices. We appreciate the adoration and respect we receive. In that same spirit, I ask the public to accept and forgive our weaknesses. It’s okay to be disappointed, but please don’t be misled. Beneath the heavy combat gear and impressive uniform, we’re human, just like you.

(Laura Cannon, a 2001 West Point graduate, is writing a memoir on her military service titled “War Virgin.” She blogs at, and performs in a comedy show that she created in Boston.)

Legacy Comments4

It is shameful that West Point graduates the like of Laura Cannon who seem to think the values of “duty, honor and country" are little more than hollow platitudes shouted by a cadet during a punishment detail. David Petraeus is a 60-year-old man who was in command of one the most important government agencies that are tasked to defend our country. And how did CIA Director and West Point graduate General Petraeus, honor his commitment to his job and our county? He had an extramarital affair with another West Point graduate and carelessly passed along classified information to said graduate. Considering the actions of the above cast of characters, including Mr. Cannon's remarks, that we have a much larger problem than teaching the code of conduct to post-adolescent cadets. It seems to me we need to take a hard look at how we select and train our nation's military elite, because it seems clear that far too many individuals who are accepted and graduate from places like West Point do not have the first clue of what comprises the values of “duty, honor and country."

I don't think there is any proof that Petraeus passed along classified information to Broadwell. The rest of your letter overlooks a lot of history regarding men who did indeed know the meaning of "duty, honor, and country," yet would seem to fall short of your expectations. Ike had a mistress during WW2. George Washington was in love with the married Sally Fairfax even while engaged to Martha, and the exact nature of their relationship will remain forever unknown.

It seems Mr. Driftwood you fail to understand a simple fact. In the days of Washington and Ike there was no such thing as email, tweets or 24-hour news cycles which make extra-martial affairs ready fodder. Nor did we have Washington or Ike act so irresponsibly with their personal lives as Petraeus or John Allen, leaving an extensive trails of unsecure emails for anyone to find. And despite your assertion, Paula Broadwell was given access to classified material and given a security clearance to supposedly do work on her biography of Petaeus - material that the FBI found on her laptop. No, none of the cast of characters, including Ms. Cannon have the least concept of "duty, honor and country" because they believe that acting irresponsibly in private life (including being careless with classified material) has no consequences for the defense of this country. And, quite frankly, there is no excuse for this adolescent attitude in anyone who serves out country in uniform or is tasked, as in the case of Petaeus, with the running one of the most important and sensitive defense agencies for our nation.

"tasked to defend our country, adolescent attitude" Would it be safe to assume that you would include those in Congress and the Presidency....... I would disagree on one major point - just because it may have been harder to get caught years back, that excuses nothing.

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