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teens

In the last 100 years, 16,307,243 men have been inducted (drafted) into the military: WWI – 2.8 mil., WWII – 10.1 mil., Korea – 1.5 mil., and Vietnam – 1.9 mil.  In 1970 the Selective Service System went to a lottery system based on your birthday.  In that year, the first 195 birthdays were drafted; my birthday was #82.  It didn’t matter to me since I was already in the U.S. Marine Corps.  The last man drafted entered the Army on June 30, 1972.

No one that I knew wanted to be drafted, but off they went to serve their country.  As the years passed, I’ve bumped into very few individuals that served in the military, including those drafted, that didn’t consider it a life learning experience.  We learned responsibility, commitment, loyalty, discipline and the experience of “serving” our country.  We learned how to work with individuals with vastly different backgrounds and perspectives.  And, we experienced some things that we would like to forget.  Most of us can still talk about it as if were yesterday.

Let me put this into perspective.  Today we have 1.4 million individuals serving in the military protecting 323 million of us; or 0.4 percent of our population.  So very few individuals will acquire that “serving your country” experience.

I realize that everyone can’t serve in the military.  In a ‘We Are the Mighty’ article in 2015, it was reported that there were 34 million individuals between the ages of 17 – 34.  Of that group 71% wouldn’t qualify for military service due to physical, behavioral and emotional issues.  Of the qualified group, only 1% had an interest to serve in the military.  We, as a country, have become disconnected from the idea of serving our country.

Here is my thought-provoking proposal.  Every young person, starting at age 18 must serve their country in one of the following services.

  • Military (two years active, or 6 years reserve)
  • Conservation Service (National Parks, recreation, energy programs, etc.)
  • Medical Service (Veterans hospitals, health service, etc.)
  • Peace Corps (as is)
  • Educational Service (Programs for supporting primarily at risk schools, preschool programs, maintenance, etc.).

There would be two commitment choices for non-military service; a two-year full-time commitment, or a four-year commitment of two active weeks each year and two days a month.  Pay grades and ‘service’ benefits would be like those for military personnel.  How about earning funds for college, college credit, help with buying a house and medical benefits?

While the service requirement starts at 18, full-time student deferments (college, trade schools, etc.) would make sense for filling certain positions; however, the deferment would have a set period.  Also, the non-military service options would provide a great opportunity for those individuals with some physical limitations that could not serve in the military.

The future of our country will be determined by how well we prepare our young people.  However, too many of them today are struggling to find a path forward or a purpose; or in street terms, a way out.  I believe this would provide a valuable building-block for growth, and it would greatly benefit our country.

 

 

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Arlington Tomb of the Unknown 2015

On June 10, 2009 I buried my father in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.  He was 86 and an Army veteran of WWII, Battle of Okinawa; part of ‘the greatest generation.’  As we drove to the burial site we passed row after row after row of white tombstones perfectly aligned in all directions.  The tombstones reached out over rolling hills like fields of wild flowers.  As I absorbed this journey, the tombstones seemed to speak out, in ever so soft voices, offering untold stories of service to our Country.  Is anybody listening?  Will you remember me?  Do you care? 

 

Arlington 3

Many of the graves are of young men and women who never got the chance to grow up and age with their families.  Lives cut short, standing their watch, so the rest of us could enjoy the freedom provided by this great Country.  In the vastness of this hallowed ground, you can occasionally see a parent, spouse, son, or daughter crouching alone at their loved one’s grave.  A young lady sitting quietly in chair facing a tombstone; ‘will you remember me?’  A father kneeling on one knee, in Section 60, an area dedicated to current war dead, with his hand on a tombstone; ‘I miss you son.’  Old veterans visiting their buddies; ‘I will never forget you.

Arlington Graves 

Over 300,000 graves populate this solemn ground each representing someone who gave part of their lives serving their country for us; ‘do you care?’  Each day, while hundreds of tourists comb drives named Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, MacArthur, and Halsey, the cemetery comes alive with the sound of a firing party providing a twenty-one-gun salute, shortly followed by the playing of “taps.”  Then silence.  –  The silence is deafening!

Picture 013

 

In Washington D.C. you can’t walk a block without bumping into someone in the military.  In most cities, you may go a month without seeing someone in uniform, making it much harder to come into contact with the reality of the price of freedom.  Every moment of every day, since the beginning of this great Country, someone’s child, parent, sibling, or spouse has stood watch in harms-way so you and your family can be safe and enjoy the freedom we so often take for granted.  –  Not knowing if they will make it home to be with their family.  Many of the entombed at Arlington never made it home!

Are you listening?  Will you remember them?  Do you care?

 

 

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Farrell USMC

It was a beautiful crisp morning at Arlington Nation Cemetery about four years ago when we were visiting my father’s grave. Our youngest son, who is in the military, and his wife were with us. As we were walking toward another area we crossed paths with a young mother carrying her baby.

We overheard her whisper to her daughter, who had never met her father, “Let’s go see Daddy.” We were speechless by such a simple comment. We talked with the young mother walking with her to her husband’s grave. We hugged her. We cried with her. There wasn’t a dry eye among us. Unforgettable.

On another visit a few years later, she wasn’t there, but there were paper cut-out hearts and a toddler’s toys beneath his niche. The young mother will not let her daughter forget the father she never knew. – He is unforgettable.

Last month, we made another trip to Arlington, and as is our practice, after visiting my father’s grave we stopped by to pay our respects to this brave man who gave all. No, we did not see the young wife there, but she had been there not long before and left lipstick marks where she had sent kisses to him. It was unforgettable.

Note the little stones on top of the marker; these are signs that the fallen have been remembered by someone. Ours was the red stone on the right.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who have given their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. There are thousands of stories going back to the Revolutionary War like the one above. While many stories have faded away over time, others are being written as you read this. Visit Section 60 at Arlington, where about 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war causalities are buried, to see where many stories begin.

This year, while you celebrate the holiday grilling out, going to the pool, or going to a local parade, think of these images at Arlington National Cemetery. Think of why we celebrate Memorial Day and why it should be unforgettable.

The beginning, Section 60…
Section 60 #1

Section 60 #2

Section 60 #3

Taps for a newly fallen…

Taps New

Taps for a WWII buddy…

Taps Old

Remembering 58,479 Vietnam brothers and sisters …

Vietnam Wall

For me personally, it’s remembering:
Frank Adamson, USMC, KIA Thua Thien, Panel 2E, Row 16
Charlie Bradford, U.S. Army, KIA MR Unknown, Panel 11E, Row 43
Dave “DJ” Jones, USMC, KIA Quang Tri, Panel 53E, Row 35

A simple remembrance that says a lot …

Vietnam Wall Bud

The stories are endless …

Graves with Flags

Memorial Day – it should always be unforgettable.

 

 

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WWII medal

In recent weeks I have watched with interest the growing concern over the situation in Syria. The reported actions of Bashar Assad’s regime have, in effect, shocked most of the civilized world on a scale not seen in decades. Countries around the world have condemned the cowardly acts of Assad. We should do something! How can we sit back and let over a 1,000 innocent men, women and children be gassed? We should strike Syria; they have crossed the red line.

“We should do something.” What thought-provoking words; safe to some but terrifying to others. These are safe words for those who are not at personal risk if military actions are taken; terrifying words to those whose family members have to do it. When I ask someone who thinks we should strike Syria who is WE, they quickly respond, the United States. Then I ask them if anyone in their family is in the military and is part of the WE, or are they talking about members of someone else’s family that are in the military. One lady who thought that we should attack Syria actually told me that ‘I would never want my kids to be in the military;’ so I guess that leaves my family.

Responses to my question often include the comment that those in the military “volunteered” to serve; they knew what they were getting into. Interestingly, the oath taken by enlistees is as follows:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

If you go back and read the history of the oath, its purpose clearly focuses on “enemies” of the United States and the protection of our Constitution. I understand that. What I don’t understand is describing many foreign conflicts as a threat to the United States, and then wanting to send our military to get involved. Some even going as far as calling it a sign of weakness if we don’t take military action. We should not be the world’s police force. The fact that the United Nations is incapable of carrying out its responsibilities in these situations is not a reason for the United States to shoulder the burden. Additionally, terms like ‘limited’ and ‘surgical’ are meaningless in war.

My family has served in this Country’s military since before the Revolutionary War; we have eight generations of military service. We fought with the British against the Shawnee and Mingo Indians at Point Pleasant Ohio in 1774, as part of the Virginia Militia and then in every war since. There are twenty-nine of us that have served this Country; with one still serving. I know families that have had family members serve four and five combat tours in the last six to seven years, seen families devastated by the loss of a loved one; watched burials at Arlington Nation Cemetery, watched a lone flag-draped casket taken off of a plane at a local municipal airport, watched a wounded warrior try to make his way around a Bass Pro Shop in his wheelchair, and listened to a young widowed Marine Corps wife at a gravesite try to explain to a toddler where daddy was. — This is the WE!

In the past decade, which has been the longest period of sustained conflict in America’s history, less than one percent of American’s have served on active duty in the military. Around twelve percent of the Senate and nineteen percent of the House are veterans. According to a New York Times article in May 2013, only a handful of them have children serving in the military.

I know who WE is. Do you?

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