I think you're on to something there. High-risk sports, like mountain climbing, (I can't think of any other in that league, but there are medium-risk sports, like scuba diving and sky diving) are almost of necessity something for the well off. But I believe there is something in almost all young males, something biological, which inclines them towards risky actions. There is also something, not necessarily the same thing, which gets in the way of young people, or young males, considering the possibly-bad consequences of their actions. This extends to things which don't put them at risk (except from society) but puts other people at risk: years ago I found the teenage sons of my nextdoor neighbors firing their air-rifles in such a way that if the pellet was not interrupted in its flight by a tree branch -- i think they were shooting at a squirrel in the tree behind their house -- the trajectory of the pellet would bring it down in the middle of our village. They just hadn't thought about it. But the rite of passage is probably tied up there in some way as well. The thing about military service -- even sub-military, like ROTC -- is that it puts you in a situation where you've publically made a statement that you are willing to take risks, even extreme ones; it rewards you for doing so because society approves of it (well, okay, not the people trying to destroy society) -- I suppose it's now nearly a criminal offense to talk about the effect of a uniform on the female sex, especially as they're now wearing the uniform as well -- and without really exposing you to much risk, it tries to provide a simulacrum of risk, and sometimes more than a simulacrum of hardship, in your training. And in a way, military service is an expression of the best of the socialist ideal: putting the interests of society -- or a part of it, your country -- ahead of your own personal interests. Perhaps that's why this man won the Distinguished Service Cross -- he had found the right way to express his socialist ideals.