July 19 2006
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Why We need The Military Draft
July 19, 2006
Kelly Thomas

In the movie, Biloxi Blues, the last scene you see is Eugene Jerome(a young Neil Simon), riding on the train and commenting on what his being in the Army has meant to him. Mainly, that a Brooklyn Jew suddenly thrown in with other people from different backgrounds and cultures he would have never known otherwise learns to love and appreciate them. He says something like, "When I was in the Army, I hated these people and the life. Now, I love them and would do anything for them." Eugene Jerome's story could be told a thousand times over.

A US Apache helicopter over the central Baghdad. US hopes of bringing troops home from Iraq in significant numbers this year appear dimmer than ever with Baghdad in the throes of a new wave of sectarian violence(AFP/File/Marwan Naamani) 

 (AFP/File/Marwan Naamani)
As a nation, I don't think we have ever needed the draft more. During the draft years, every young man in America had to factor what the draft meant to his future: What am I going to do about the military? Now, of course, that is not even considered.

Part of the story of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues is how the Army erased all class distinctions. Suddenly here were high school dropouts with college graduates, with middle class, and poor. It was a true melting pot. Sure, draftees didn't like being in; but, like a lot of kids when they are young, when it's over, they're the first to say that I wouldn't take anything for it. It was a time when people in the military learned to value each other; and, in a true sense, their diversities.

The military draft created a homogenizing effect that meant that every swinging Richard, so to speak, could go into any bar or church and say to a total stranger, "I remember when I was in the service." Instant rapport!

The draft was good for everybody. Think racial for one thing. The Army has done a better job of integration than the civilian world. And, what opportunities the military gave to minorities! When I was in Korea last at Camp Red Cloud, we had five African American sergeant majors; three of them were female and they were great. I only mention them to make this point: each of them had tales of how they came up through the ranks- an opportunity from their perspective.

US Army soldiers secure the area around the scene of an explosion that killed one person, in the Wazariya neighborhood in northern Baghdad. Iraqis have taken charge of security in the southern province of Muthanna, replacing British and Australian forces in the first such transfer of responsibility in Iraq, even as violence continued elsewhere.

 (AFP/Ali Al-Saadi)
And, of course, the draft is needed for manpower. If we are to fight wars like Iraq, how are we going to do it in the future, not like we are fighting wars now, I hope. Relying on the Guard and the Reserves won't hack it; think Abu Ghraib.

The draft is the only answer. It is one of the few things I have passion about; I seriously don't think there's a chance in hell of it getting reinstated unless someone comes up with a plan and then it is doubtful; our political leaders don't have the guts.

I have a plan but don't quite know how to pull it off. The country needs the draft, we need it for ourselves. Initially, to get it reinstated will be hard, but eventually, it will be OK and accepted; but it could take ten years. What I'm hoping is that we'll be forced into it. Thus far, I think we've been able to throw enough money at keeping the volunteer army, but Iraq has awakened us. If Iraq continues and if soldiers do not reenlist to meet military goals, we may be forced to do something.

We need an effective lobby to get us back to the draft. Congressmen who are up for reelection and oppose the draft must be made to state their position and when they say, "No Draft" we have to get them defeated. How to do that is the issue! It would take money, organization, and passion.

God Bless America and Hoo-ah!

[ Note: Biloxi Blues is the second in a trilogy of films about Neil Simon's life,a famous playwright. The film follows Neil Simon (Eugene Jerome) from Brooklyn, New York to training camp in Biloxi, Mississippi. This film is adapted from a play about Neil Simon's experiences after World War II(semi-autobiographical) The movie is humorous, and brings back alot of memories for veterans, especially World War II veterans.]

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