military service should be mandatory

Military service should be mandatory

Americans, especially baby boomers, should be ashamed of themselves. How can the world\'s richest population let its military go begging for recruits?
Each year, the military services -- Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy -- establish recruiting goals to maintain adequate numbers of personnel. The numbers change annually depending on, among other factors, service needs, recruitment figures the year before and retention of current troops.
Most informed folks are familiar with the sorry statistics, but let me repeat them for the record: The Air Force has a goal of 33,800 for this year; it expects to fall short by 1,700. The Army needs 74,500 but will miss the mark by 6,300. Currently short of its goal of 53,200, the Navy expects to have enough recruits by week\'s end. Because of its unique tradition, the Marine Corps is the only branch that consistently fills its quota.
In all, according to the Associated Press, the services need 197,115 recruits to maintain a force of 1.4-million.
Why are the services having such a hard time recruiting? One obvious reason, according to the New York Times, is that the number of people between ages 18 and 22, the prime age for recruits, has dropped to approximately 21-million, 5-million fewer than in 1980. Another major reason, of course, is that the economy has opened job opportunities to those who otherwise might see the military as an option.
These two are real reasons for the shrinking recruiting pool, but I see another reason, one that is perhaps at the heart of the problem: As a group, those between 18 and 22 are not patriotic. And perhaps even worse, too many baby-boomer parents and other "influencers" -- teachers and coaches -- bad-mouth the military. As the New York Times reports, many of these adults are still angry about the Vietnam War, or they never wore a uniform.
Either way, the result is the same: hostility toward the military. The solution? We should bring back the draft, along with an alternative form of mandatory national service. Every American citizen has a duty to serve the nation for at least two years. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
If a high school student decides, say, to attend college first and become a doctor. Fine. He or she still must serve. Why not serve for two years in a veterans hospital? Or treat the poor who otherwise cannot get decent medical treatment? So the kid wants to become a lawyer. Good. After law school, he or she can work for Rural Legal Services for two years. Why not do something to help those who cannot afford to get their day in court? Many of them are the working poor.
In the Fort Lauderdale and Crescent City neighborhoods where I grew up, the old saying that "the service makes you a man" literally guided our lives. Despite the racial discrimination that prevented us from being real citizens, I and every boy I knew believed that we had a duty to serve in the military. Our heroes were the men in our lives who had served in World War II or Korea. My uncle Joe Maxwell, for example, was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. For us, he was larger than life.
His Purple Heart was the center of his living room -- and our lives. His example, fulfilling his duty to the nation, inspired me to give up a college deferment and join the Marine Corps. Throughout the years, as a college teacher, I persuaded many of my students to join the military. Later, all of them thanked me and have stayed in touch with me. I also have influenced several relatives to enlist. The most recent is a cousin who graduated from Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale in June. Today, he is a proud sailor; he will be stationed in Pensacola.
Something bad has happened to us. And I do not believe, as George W. Bush does, that the U.S. needs a "new foreign policy" if we expect to recruit effectively. Where I am from, we call such thinking bass ackward. No, we need to scrap the all-volunteer army concept and draft everyone -- including the