Silent Generation Speaks, Listen Up!
APPLICATION BY COUNTRY
Some 27 nations, including China, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Germany, Switzerland and Egypt, have compulsory military service, with some remaining on the reserve rolls until about age 45. By comparison, 43 countries, including the US, Canada, Italy, Japan, France, and Iraq, do not require military service. The United States enacted the Selective Service Act in 1917 requiring all men between the ages of 21 – 30 to register and possibly serve in WW I. Since then the system has been tinkered with. In readiness for WW II, the rolls swelled to 50 million men, of which 16 million served on active duty.
Until the 1960s, registering for the draft was considered a right of passage for young men when they turned 18. Their draft card was carried as a badge of honor, signifying “I am ready, willing and able to go fight for my country.” In 1975 the draft system was discontinued, and an all volunteer service was instituted. Though the 2008 selective service rolls contain 14 million names, registering for the draft has long been ignored, forgotten, and not enforced.
SO WHO FIGHTS OUR WARS?
Our all volunteer services fight our wars, wherever they are sent around the globe. Those who do not volunteer for military service, openly view it as a choice of occupation and not a commitment to give back to the country that has provided them a free and safe environment in which to live and work.
We have committed the largest number of troops to fight in the Middle East for 20 years, and we cannot yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. During Vietnam, the typical tour of duty was 12-13 months. Few ever had to return for subsequent tours. And when our troops requested extensions to stay and fight, they were typically denied beyond a second year because war was becoming a way of life for them. They lost touch with reality, had family problems related to their absences, and mental problems resulting in anti-social behavior. TODAY, though the tours in Afghanistan are only 7 months long, troops only spend 7 months in the States before going back. Some are now on their 4th and 5th tours with no end in sight. The number of suicides, psychological problems and divorces are increasing. The number of our active forces is insufficient to allow for longer assignments back in the States. How much more are we going to ask of these brave heroic men and women who are giving their lives and limbs for us.
If we are going to continue to commit our military forces in wars where other countries give but a few thousand or hundred troops, it is time to activate our selective service system. Others need to share the burden of keeping our nation free and safe. If we are not prepared to do this, then we need to change our foreign policies and stop fighting other countries wars.