America’s Legacy of Service by Jan C. Scruggs
For more than a decade, U.S. troops have been engaged in dangerous combat thousands of miles from home. The deaths, injuries and long term consequences of service by these young Americans have been real and substantial. They are giving their lives over there in service to this nation. This isn’t news to you…but to some, it seems to be. What I find interesting and disturbing is how little some Americans know about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does the “average” America regularly think about the war? And how many actually follow and try to understand what’s happening on today’s battlefields?
I guess the conflicts in the Middle-East have dragged on for a few too many years, and news stations hardly report about them. In their day-to-day lives, many Americans even forget that we have soldiers actively fighting overseas.
Back in the Vietnam era, and certainly before then, things were very different. The country knew when we were at war, because the person fighting wasn’t just a man dressed in fatigues and a helmet on TV. The warrior was a relative, your neighbor down the street, your son’s teacher, or a friend from high school. People you knew served.
A lot of these people were drafted and ordered to report for duty as a soldier for 24 months, regardless of what else they had going on or whether or not they really wanted to. In World War II, Elvis Pressley was a well-know example. For Elvis, his draft notice came at the height of his career in 1957. Elvis had so much going for him, but he still served.
The nation has fielded large forces in the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam with many conscripted soldiers. The worst was the Civil War when casualties were so high that the draft age was set at 40. Elvis and millions of others who have been conscripted into military service accepted it as an obligation of citizenship and did their term of service. This was a shared burden between all American service members. And those drafted out of “privileged classes” commonly noted that they did learn a few profound lessons by wearing a green uniform and being equal to people of other racial, ethnic, and social class groups.
Mark Thompson of TIME has written a great article worth reading, and I hope you will; here
When America was fighting in Vietnam, I volunteered for two years in the Army in 1968. I saw some combat and was wounded. I later led the effort to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In contrast, many people my age did as much as they could do avoid the draft because, as Elvis would attest, soldiering is inconvenient. However, many draftees served our country bravely, and sadly, over 17,000 of them did not return alive from Vietnam. Each had a sense of duty, courage and a love of country. These are values that our society needs to elevate.
No, I do not believe we should bring back the draft. Things have changed. Now we have an all-volunteer military, and these volunteer troops have risen to meet each challenge. They are well-led by a professional officer and non-commissioned officer corps. However, as Americans, we should still have the passion for soldiers we did during earlier times of conflict.
When today’s veterans are serving in combat zones, putting their lives on the line, they need our consistent support from back home. We must never forget that U.S. troops are often under fire while the rest of America is in the comfort of our own homes. No one is paying higher taxes or being required to ration gasoline like in previous wars. A relative few, the soldiers, do the sacrificing for everyone else.
Soldiers don’t ask for much. However, when opportunities arise, all American people should show them some well-earned respect and appreciation. It’s the least we can do.
I am often reminded that the greatest tribute to those who perished in Vietnam is to see them as not just names on The Wall. At The Education Center at The Wall, there will be exhibits recognizing the sacrifices made by American military heroes, beginning at Lexington Green in 1775 and on through to Afghanistan. Every American veteran will be remembered.
Do your part in helping veterans past and present. Donate to The Education Center at The Wall so our veterans’ stories and sacrifices will never be forgotten.
Go to www.buildthecenter.org or text the word “WALL” to 20222 to donate $10.00.