I see a gallery of pictures of elderly veterans, some women but mostly men. Next to their most recent pictures our pictures of them in uniform, mostly from the World War 2 era. There are earnest faces, dashing faces, pictures of women looking elegant in their uniforms. The one that grabs my attention the most is one of a baby faced young man. I look at the picture and I wonder how he have possibly been 18 in that picture. How could his parents send him off to war without an aching heart. Did this young man insist on enlisting, no matter what his parents might have said? Or was he drafted? In the gallery of pictures this information isn’t given. I can surmise though that the women in the gallery had the choice of enlisting.
In a few years my son will by law be required as an American male citizen to require with the Selective Service System. If he wants to pursue federal employment or getting a student loan, they will check to make sure he is registered. I wonder, do other parents say a silent prayer that the draft never returns. I admit I hadn’t given this much thought until recently. I had no brothers to give their thoughts about the system. Very few of my male peers talked about it.
My dad was a veteran who knew he had a good chance of getting drafted and enlisted in the hopes of pursuing the best opportunity. And he got the GI Bill out of the deal. Of course history tells us that some never made it home from their military experience. Some came home with physical and/or psychological scars that would never heal. It is said that my dad’s father who served in World War 1 suffered from “shell shock”. I believe my grandfather’s psychological scars made it difficult to fully parent my father, I’ve never really had a sense of my dad as having much of a childhood. My dad started paid work at age 13, I believe in part because his parents could not or would not fully provide for his needs. So in some respects the military offered a path for my dad to get somewhere in life.
For all the men and women who are veterans, surely we can do better as a nation to provide for them, especially the ones who come home with physical and psychological wounds. For those who are on active duty, surely we can do better in providing for their families.
This week there has been a lot of talk about male privilege. There has been talk about what sort of legacy the events of this week leaves for our daughters. I can tell you my daughter’s 18th birthday came and went without a thought of military service. No matter who we may have elected President this week you can bet the requirement to register for the Selective Service System won’t go away. As the Selective Service System website says “It’s what a man’s got to do.”
I am cynical about politics. I am tired of hearing about male privilege this week. In a few years I will be thinking about my son’s friends, rich and poor or black and white registering for the Selective Service System. I’ll say a prayer for peace , a prayer for the young men, and a prayer for their families. I’ll say that prayer for peace today that the draft never returns.
For all the men and women today who voluntarily enlist in the military we Americans owe you so much. Let us be called to action so that we can find a better way to repay you for your sacrifice.