A Talk With a Major General

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

There was a time when retired Air Force Major General John Borling heard no music. For seven years he was held as a POW in Vietnam, but there's no shortage of music now, not in his home, not in his life. He sings the praise of public service and one of his biggest projects is the not for profit organization "SOS America," or Service Over Self.

"We've got so many problems that seem to beset us, the drug and violence culture. The need for more boots on the ground in terms of the military, so SOS America argues that we ought to have a program for America's young men and women who would volunteer," says Borling.

The program is a push for a mandatory year of service that would augment the current all volunteer force.

"There's nothing more powerful, especially for a young man, than to be able to put on badge on his coat that says I served. They'll be better husbands, father, citizens," says Borling.

Talking about the battle to bring more men and women into service led us to the inevitable discussion of the battle in Iraq.

"We won't have that figured out whether it's a big plus of a big minus for 20 to 25 years," says Borling.

Borling says Iraq has a good chance, but the next eight months are key.

"Will this government, now dually elected, not transitional, will it be able to, in fact, anneal the forces, many of which are divisive in that country, and put together a functioning, working government. I hope that will be the case," says Borling.

A man of the world, General Borling is also paying close attention to issues here in Rockford. Borling says the stateline appears to be in an economic rebound, but he still worries about the Rockford school system and its needs for drastic improvements.

"As long as Rockford can't square away its school accounts and offer people more certainty when they come to Rockford, that, hey, your kids are going to go to this school or that school, that's going to be an impediment to future growth," says Borling.
And Borling says a racial imbalance restricts the schools and the city from progressing.

"I lived in the military, basically a color blind society for 37 years, and I get so vexed at what I consider to be, on one hand, posturing that does little good for the city, on the other hand, inequities that need to be addressed, and addressed forcefully," says Borling.

Borling won't comment on any future political plans, but he hasn't ruled anything out. For now, he says he's just thriving, taking in the music and pledging to do his part to move America forward and his adopted hometown.


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