Friday, May 25, 2012

My Memorial Day Article in the New York Times

More Americans Need ‘Skin in the Game’

Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is the co-author with his son John of “Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps” and the co-author with Kathy Roth-Douquet of “AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes From Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country.”
UPDATED MAY 24, 2012, 5:03 PM
The sense that “we’re all in this together” is missing from our exhausted military. When my son John graduated from boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000 parents were on the parade deck stands cheering. We did not represent a diversity of economic classes. My son was an exception: He’d gone to a swanky Boston private high school, we’re well off and liberal, and we weren’t a military family.
For many service members, the truth is that while everyone is ready to 'thank them,' few are ready to join them.
We are now. Through the many e-mail responses to books I wrote about my experience of becoming a military parent and how unexpectedly proud I became of my son’s choice, I discovered that many of us in the military family feel alienated from society. I did. I didn’t know anyone in my Volvo-driving, higher-education-worshiping neighborhood with a kid serving. I couldn’t help noticing a “we” against “them” edge to a lot of the e-mails I got, like, “My son is getting shot at while everyone else goes shopping.”
With the end of conscription, service ceased to be something ordinary. It became a “choice” for needy members of the aggressively recruited lower middle class and a generational “duty” for the legacy recruits from upper-middle-class military families. In this environment, it is inevitable that military families will ask: Why should I, or my child, die for rich people who never served and won’t send their children to serve?
There is a symbiotic relationship between the “leave it to us professionals” attitude expressed by our military leaders — who now command what amounts to a mercenary force wrapped in the flag, when compared with the citizen army our founders envisioned — and the “not with my child” selfishness of our upper classes.
For many service members, the truth is that while everyone is ready to “thank them,” few are ready to join them. It’s hard to fight for your country year after year (or watch your child do so) then recover from physical and psychological wounds when, let’s be frank — our nation doesn’t share the sacrifice.
Lurking in many military people’s minds is the question: “Was I a sucker for joining?” Most are proud of their service and should be. But their multitude of physical, family, mental and economic sacrifices might be easier to bear if the pool of recruits were truly diverse and everyone had “skin in the game,” including our political and corporate leaders.


Morrison said...

Well, Frank, I see you are back to your version of the Gospel of "Salvation By Military Service".

But the Draft did not keep the Government from engaging in the Vietnam War for 10 years, or slow down the Military Industiral Complex one bit.

In fact, a good case can be made that with a draft and thus an unlimted supply of cannon fodder...which a "volunteer" (and you know there is a "backdoor" draft) does not provide...the Military can engage in even larger operations.

The Draft is Involuntay Servitude.

sdub said...

(Ft. Campbell).This description could not be more accurate. As a military spouse in an extremely engaged military community, I see all around me and feel personally the ever-rising frustration level resulting from each issue noted in this article. So many this month in Blanchfield Army Community Hospital parking lot, another in my husbands unit, an attempt in my son-in-laws company, and a murder-suicide of the father and mother of one of the children I teach..all just this month, and only the ones in this community. Our soldiers have needs that cannot wait for us to "come round' to support. We've raised these kids on Disney, and now we expect them to cope like hardened criminals. I wonder if those of the 1%, those who think of the military as a security box to check in their self-preservation list, consider our soldiers, our sons and daughters, as anything different than hardened criminals

sdub said...
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Steve D said...

I got drafted in 1970 and served until 1972. Ten years later I joined the Reserves and served until 2001, with deployments to the Gulf War and Bosnia. I have 21 years total time.

I seriously doubt anyone in the military wants a draft. Equipment is too complex and the tasks are too demanding and stressful to entrust to some unwilling draftee.

The old choice "jail or the military" pulled a lot of guys back from the brink of destruction, at the cost of requiring NCO's to be jail wardens. Trust me, it's lovely to tell someone to do a job and be able to expect it to get done, and count on everyone being present at roll call. The flip side of your stereotype of the military recruiting the lower class is that the rejection rate for some extremely poor neighborhoods is astronomical. Too many dropouts, drug users, and felons.

BLDavis said...

Hey Franky, interesting op-ed, but you forgot one import piece ... you forgot to remind us, you readers, who your father was, or that you were a backstage architect of the 1970's religious right. Come on Frank, remind us again, we love hearing it!

Ex-Crusader said...

@BLDavis: I imagine that's just what jesus would say! What a stellar representation of christ-like love!

@ Frank: I'm sure you're right. I have all boys and am not chomping at the bit to see them serve in the military but I certainly can't argue with your points at all.

BLDavis said...

@Ex-Crusader ... don't be so sanctimonious. I actually was surprised to see this constant part of Frank's writing left out. But to the discussion point, as a father I'm not big on the idea of my kids serving either.

Morrison said...

There is something naseating about someone like Franky here who did not serve during the Vietnam Draft era, while safely away in Switzesrland, now suggesting that my young kids be sacrificed on the alter of The State.

Ex Crusade, what do you care what Jesus would say? It is ironic how someone who does not want god telling them what to do is now ready to let The STATE tell them what to do with thier kids.