– Dick Hefton
A recent Letter to the (Oklahoman) Editor from OSU Hall of Fame athlete Dick Soergel was both refreshing and “conveniently” provided a lead-in to this column in the planning stages in early May. Entitled “A New Draft” Soergel wrote; “I just returned from my granddaughter’s graduation from the (US) Air Force …basic training. It was most impressing to see the courtesy, discipline, respect and patriotism exhibited by the young airmen. We weren’t born with these attributes but we must learn them. Apparently, we aren’t getting the job done in many of our homes or in schools…restore the draft and require every able bodied person between the ages of 16 and 25 to serve two years of military or community service”
A May article in USA Today questioned whether the Millennials “get (the) basics of personal responsibility?” They asked if military service teaches self-reliance.
The article included a latter from Herb Jones, a father in Shalimar, FL who said; “I would give anything had my son had two years of military training. This would have shaped him to be self-reliant. Now he relies on an 83 year old father to bail him out.” Harsh words, but, “the draft with two years of active duty makes a more responsible citizen.” Granting that conditions today pose heavier responsibility than past generations ever dreamed of, nevertheless, the fundamentals of nurturing those qualities put forth by Soergel and Jones are more in need in society today than ever before. A program tied to education could measurably reduce the cost of higher education, i.e., student loans.
Instilling courtesy, discipline and respect for authority, reliability, teamwork into the generation inheriting society is patently sound, but what positive effect directly on patriotism and national defense? Recruiting and retention in the active and reserve forces would gain an ongoing surge from those exposed who discover unforeseen career tracks. That would fill an inherent gap in true diversity in personnel all along the hierarchy of command and control. Racial and gender diversity is primary in all facets of life in this country today. Oddly, in the military, at least, little advancement is seen in educational or socio-economic diversity. Oh, it has improved some since the all – volunteer force came in following Viet Nam, but, short of the supply from the academies and what is left of college ROTC a wide education gap still hangs perilously over the corps. And while women have integrated into the predominately male rolls, military leaders at the outset of the end of the draft viewed the change more as “filler” than a social gesture yet annually has grown and shifted the military’s proportionate strength.
The most recent cause for concern is what lies behind attacks on recruiting offices necessarily placed in civilian shops? The latest act may be aimed at making prospective enlistees think twice before even an inquiry? The question is problematical; same result for an enemy!