The Sierra Sage
By Len Semas, Publisher
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Is It Time?
This country was founded on a tradition of citizen-soldiers whereby every able-bodied male was inherently part of the “militia,” and was expected to answer the call, should the need arise. That need did arise with our decision to separate from the control of England, and become an independent nation.
Over time, a standing military replaced the militia, but substantial numbers of the population stood ready to serve. Our 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, in fact, supports this intention: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” We have lost sight of the fundamental purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and of the importance of a broadly-based military capability.
Mandatory service (military conscription or the “Draft”) was utilized in the Civil War, WW I, WW II, and the Cold War period of 1940 to 1973, until it was ended under Richard Nixon and replaced by a volunteer military. Prior to the Civil War, the concept of a militia was still strong and able-bodied males served as a vanguard of Liberty, and a traditional rite of passage, turning boys into men. That tradition continued, even if informally, until the ending of the Draft. Coupled with the unpopularity of the Viet Nam War, and changing social mores, military service declined as an honorable duty of the many, and become a selective opportunity for the few. Today, about .5 percent of the population serve in the military; only 1 percent have EVER served. Even among Members of Congress, military service has declined from 70% in 1975 to 20% today – and these are the people charged with making war. While enhanced professionalism among our fighting forces and greatly expanded technology have lessened the need for ground troops in great numbers, the importance of numbers in all armed forces will remain a constant necessity.
Beyond the issue of military preparedness and strength, the societal aspect of military service cannot be overlooked. The importance of “turning boys into men” is greater today than ever, as so many young men are emasculated with social and cultural intent to equalize the sexes by elevating females and diminishing males. Biological characteristics of aggression, competition, and a winning mentality are criticized and undermined; instead of turning into men, boys are being turned into “snowflakes.” Instead of venturing out and taking on challenges of manhood, boys are living at home with the parents (or often, single moms), coddled, protected and provided for. Men with military service backgrounds would not tolerate, much less seek out, such an environment.
The roles of women have also undergone a transformation in society, as many have entered fields – including the military – traditionally reserved or oriented toward men. While the inclusion of women in some areas, such as combat ground forces and extended at-sea assignments, is still subject to debate, their ability to serve in many military functions is well established. There are limitations on certain duties by men, for that matter, due to physical (eyesight) limitations and conscientious objector status and other factors. (note: limitations based on sexual preference are a topic for another discussion.) The fact is that most able-bodied men and women are able to perform military service.
While military service stands alone among public service options in terms of difficulty, demands and risks, other forms of public service are notable, in particular, the Peace Corps, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), various religious missions and many state or local programs. Such programs are sources of emotional and mental growth, and encouraging service beyond oneself. It is often said that “freedom is not free,” and that reality has been too often forgotten in recent times. As beneficiaries of the great legacy of freedom obtained and preserved by our founders and many who followed in war and peace, I believe the price of freedom should be shouldered by every generation, and by every American, man and woman.
The role of service has three components:
Protecting and preserving our way of life through military service.
As a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood through some type of disciplined program.
As “dues” for enjoying the benefits of living in a free society through service to others.
As a military veteran, I value the unique challenges, sense of duty, and level of accomplishments offered by participation in military. While I believe it to be a positive experience for all who serve, I think forced conscription (except in time of declared war) is inconsistent with our concept of liberty, and should be voluntary. Instead, I believe young Americans should be informed as to the role of our military and the benefits of service, either in uniform, or through other institutions, and encouraged to serve in one capacity or another. I believe we need to stop the give-away of public benefits, in particular, higher education benefits for young people. College grants for simply “showing up” are an unearned benefit. Such grants should be made in exchange for “services rendered” as good citizens.
I would recommend an “education for service” program that rewards service as follows:
For each year of military service, up to eight years of education*, including graduate and professional programs and including books and basic living expenses.
For each year of service in an approved non-military program (e.g. Peace Corps), up to four years of education*, including books and basic living expenses.
A minimum of 2 years of service in an approved non-military program for any public benefits provided by the federal government, including loans, grants or direct benefits (e.g. food stamps).
*Education at any accredited public institution of higher education
For far too long, the focus in society has been on benefits and entitlements owed to citizens. It is time to address the obligations of citizens to the free society they inherited through the blood spilled, risks taken, and money spent by generations that went before them.
No, freedom is NOT free, and it is essential that as young Americans come of age, they contribute to the well-being of a nation that gives so much in return for so little. It is also essential that young people be encouraged to become adults and take their place as responsible and capable citizens just as their parents and their parent’s parents did. A free society cannot sustain itself as a nation of cupcakes, snowflakes, and the unjustly entitled.
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