Having done my tour of duty in Germany, I came back to the United States in 1959 to continue my service in the reserves. I was placed in an MP (Military Police) unit. I can recall that we were detailed to be in charge of the traffic in a military cemetery. To this day, I am not sure where it was. It was a very hot day with lots of cars trying to find graves.
At that point, most of the men were either World War II or Korean veterans; the folks that visited the graves were their families and surprisingly quite a number of other veterans who were coming to pay their respect to their fallen brothers.
At that point in time, of the 435 members of congress and the 100 senators, over 60% had served in the military. That number rose in the 1970’s to about 75% in the senate and 65% in the House of Representatives. Now the percentages are 20% as of 2014.
Since there is no longer a draft, we now have a completely volunteer army. Therefore the percent of those serving in the military will continue to diminish. Most of our population will have no relationship with a military person, or someone who has died for their country. That makes explaining what goes on in the military that much more difficult.
The current fad is to go up to a young man and woman, either in uniform, or knowing that the young person was in the military and say, “Thank you for your service.” Somehow this felicitous remark carries with it a lack of understanding of our fighting men and women.
When most of the population was intimately aware of what goes in with our service men and women, there was no such statement. The draft required that you be taken from your community for two years. The services, especially the Army were a mix of many different kinds of people and social groups.
When the draft was eliminated, the social makeup of the Army especially changed. The other services, Marines, Navy and Air Force did not contain many draft personnel. I believe that the marines did draft sometime in the early seventies during the Vietnam War.
There were many draft dodgers and those who left the country to avoid the war. This was a different time and a rising antipathy to the war itself. Not sure that most people understand what happened in the late 60’s and 70’s. This brings me to the background of this tome.
I see so many displays of patriotism by those who have not had any experience with the military. 80% of congress people and senators have had no experience or relationship with the military. As those numbers dwindle, it seems that their celebration of Memorial Day gets bigger and bigger. Speeches get longer and more involved. Wearing a flag lapel pin is mandatory for political people of all stripes.
We celebrate this day with little understanding of what it means. I pray that we have no more wars, righteous or unrighteous. However, I would vote for a return to the draft ( it ended in 1973), or some kind of service- community, Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, AmeriCorps, or other two year stints. I know that I am in the minority, but that’s not a new thing for me.