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Service to our country; It's now your generation's challenge
By Mike Harpold


April 02, 2006

As I read Devin Klose's letter, Draft is the Last Thing Needed, I was reminded of a luncheon at my Rotary Club a couple years ago that happened to occur on Veteran's Day. The club president asked all of us who had served to stand. Only three of us did. There was a time, not that many years ago, when almost the entire membership would have been standing. I wondered as I stood what the future ramifications for our country will be when service to our country is not the norm of our society, but the duty of just a handfull of professionals.

Fifty years ago, when I left high school, young men faced Universal Military Training, the peacetime draft. The choice was simple, go before college or after, but every able male went to one military service or another for a minimum of two years. Even Elvis served, spending most of his two-year hitch with the U.S. Army in Germany. It was not always popular, and the Peacetime GI Bill was not enacted until the Viet Nam years so there was not much reward afterward, but we lived with it. We served.

When I was 30 years old and the father of three young children, I answered the call to serve my country again, going to Viet Nam for two years as a civilian adviser working with the Vietnamese National Police Field Forces. In 1968, the year I went, it was already apparent that the hoped for result in Viet Nam might not be acheived. Yet I and thousands of other American men and women continued to go, voluntarily and involuntarily, because our country was engaged and it was our duty to do so. Six million American men and women from my generation served in Viet Nam. Many of us had questions about our involvement there. But we went, and most of us came home afterwards and quietly resumed our lives.

I, like Devin, have serious questions about our involvement in Iraq. Yet, I would not question the motivation of our men and women who are serving there. I am sure that they feel no differently than I did thirty-eight years ago, that our country needs them, and so they are there. When their duty is finished they will share with all the veterans who proceed them the satisfaction of having served their country.

Our country today is facing a threat that far transcends Iraq, radical Islamic terrorism. I believe that on the day following the terror attacks of 9/11, the president should have called for two years of national service following high school or college from every young American; service to be spent not only in our armed forces, but in border protection, airport security, and most importantly in helping villagers build water wells in Guinea or teaching English to Arab youth in Saudi Arabia. Every generation in our history has had to rise to a challenge of similar magnitude. This, Devin, is your generation's challenge, and it doesn't matter that through indifference to problems in the Middle east my generation may have dumped a mess in your lap. But it will matter to you and all of us someday for you to be able to say that you've served your country. God bless.

Mike Harpold
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Mike Harpold has lived in Ketchikan for 22 years and raised two daughters here.


Related Viewpoint:

letter Draft is last thing needed By Devin Klose - Ketchikan, AK - USA



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Ketchikan, Alaska