Essay on Military Service Should be Mandatory

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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
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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…