Memorial Day in Norwich has come and gone.
For the record it was wonderful to see retired Army Colonel James Cushman, on his own two feet, as the Master of Ceremonies. The crowd was better than average in numbers and the Norwich High School madrigal choir could not have been better at singing the National Anthem.
As the 2018 speaker, Dr. Edward J. Erickson – a multi-war Army veteran – gave his remarks, one couldn’t help but notice the faces in the park were all very familiar. That is because it is the same people in attendance, year after year. Everyone at the Memorial Day ceremony is a local military veteran, the family of veterans’ or one of a handful of patriotic citizens. Dr. Erickson was truly preaching to the choir in West Park on Monday.
The gathered audience strained to hear the voices from the public address speakers, not because the volume was too low, but because the traffic on Route 12 was as busy as if it were any other Monday. The noisy traffic included several tractor-trailers making deliveries, which would have been much quieter a decade ago because most businesses closed for business back then. That was once the custom for such a solemn holiday. (During the ceremony, a Byrne Dairy tractor-trailer driver did shut down his motor at the red traffic light, and he is rightfully commended.)
As time passes, fewer people have a connection to the military, and fewer yet care about or dare to enter the armed forces. This divide between the population and those in the profession of arms is the reason there was so much traffic on Route 12 last Monday; the dangerous military mission is far from most people’s thoughts.
After the ceremony, the discussion turned to the growing gap between the military and the populace. One war-time veteran offered a solution to this issue: “Bring back the draft.”
While forced conscription seems like it would be a social equalizer, most volunteer soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will tell you they’d rather not serve next to someone who doesn’t want to be there, especially in combat.
After I took some time thinking about mandatory military service for everyone, I realized it might actually be helpful for certain aspects of our country. The first thought that comes to mind is the interaction between many cultures. Presently the military does a great job of blending together volunteers from different backgrounds with a common goal of mission accomplishment. But just think if everyone had to serve at least one tour of duty in the military––and everyone should include women between 18 and 25 years of age.
An idea that has floated around since the War on Terror began, is for all “able aged” people to serve two-years of active duty or six-years in the reserves. For those who want to attend college full-time, there would be an R.O.T.C. commitment attached to federally funded college loans. Volunteers would be the first to fill the combat-likely jobs with draftees in the supporting positions, and draftees only filling empty combat spaces during times of war.
Speaking of war, our country has a tendency to go to war more often when volunteers make up the military. Some call it the “they asked for it” mentality. So with draftees in the ranks, our service members might stay at home more than they deploy.
Years down the road, as the draftees come of age, we all would reap the benefits of having elected leaders with a shared experience in their background. Maybe that would end some of the “us-versus-them” ranting that has infused everything in our lives and caused political gridlock over the past years. It would certainly be a breath of fresh air to have mutually respectful discussion and negotiations between politicians which was once the norm when the majority of those in office were WWII, Korea or Viet Nam veterans. Having conscription back in our country’s routine might also counter some of the anti-American activities that are flourishing on some of the college campuses around the country.
It is highly unlikely the politicians in Washington will make changes to our current Selective Service System anytime soon. We should all hope there is no world action looming that would require conscription in the meantime, because considering the remote control technology of war today, we probably would not have time to get the first draftees into uniform before it was all over.
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