The Hero in His Element
With the United States going to war, Theodore Roosevelt had to go to war, too. There was never any doubt that he would serve, although there was plenty of reason for him not to. As his friends and relatives pointed out, he could do far greater good for the country in Washington than in Cuba. Hundreds--nay, thousands--of men were better qualified to march into battle and trade lead with the Spaniards; the country had but one assistant navy secretary, and he was needed at his desk. As gently as they could, Lodge, Douglas Robinson, and several others reminded Roosevelt that he was nearly forty, that he had never served in the military (three years of very part-time duty in the New York militia hardly qualified), that he wasn't in the physical condition he once had been in, that if he did enlist he would probably end up guarding some fort in Florida, that however well his bravery might protect him from Spanish bullet or bayonet, bravery was no protection against malaria or typhoid.
Roosevelt conceded these objections, but still he had to go. Without putting it so directly even to himself, he was going not for the country's sake but for his own. After all the noise he had made over the years and especially recently about the glories of war and the need to back words with weapons, he couldn't possibly do otherwise. "It does not seem to me that it would be honorable for a man who has consistently advocated a warlike policy not to be willing himself to bear the brunt of carrying out that policy," he told Douglas Robinson. "I have a horror of people who bark but don't bite." To Bill Sewall, who similarly counseled against going to war, he replied, "I thank you for your