Saturday, December 31, 2011

West Point, University or For Training of Military

Talk about a spirited contest, the Army/ Navy football game. Both sides’ stadiums full. Even the Prez showed up. For American style football, this isn’t much. No powerhouses with the Academies. The military academies and most everybody who cogitates their navels about sports gets why. Really big football prospects aren’t going to the academies, mainly because they have a military commitment of mostly five years waiting for them. Thus ending any desires for a professional sports career.

There was a time that the Academies were competitive. When? We had the draft. Young men figured they were going to serve anyway, why not get a good education? For free no less. Do we think that Milt Friedman and the then SecDef, Melvin Laird, who sold us a bill of goods on ending the draft, thought of those unintended consequences?

I always look at the academies a little differently than most. First of all, this worshipful attitude toward them needs to be put in perspective. These kids’ education is no small thing—a million bucks a pop. And, there’s other stuff, they do get a stipend, maybe a few other bennies. The flip side of the coin is that going to one of the Academies is no cake walk. It is hard: field problems, restrictions, other things that some non academy types like myself don’t even know. I can tell you this though. We don’t need all these separate academies. One is sufficient and certain curriculum could be tailored to individual services. Consolidating the Academies, like so many things in government, could save billions of dollars. Think any congressman would have the “balls” to even suggest such a thing? Don’t hold your breath. We are talking WWlll. The military lobby would be in “hell raising” political posture before you could say, “at ease.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Inception of Community Service

Dear Mr. Edwards:
As a fellow North Carolinian, (Dunn) I applaud your entry into the Presidential sweepstakes. I am often amazed why anyone would be in politics unless it is a "calling" and I think yours is. Unfortunately, for many, it morphs into a career and politics as usual. I hope and pray that your commitment is different.

My basic purpose for writing, doubting you will ever see this but you might, based on a recent Newsweek article. Your desire for the voters to see the real you. "Untucked." I like it. And, the idea of putting your campaign on "youtube" is right on--very creative from my point of view and I sent the link to dozens. I think that the transparency is truly the only way for a democracy and what you're doing is part of it. You have my support, I assure you.

My feeling is that you are saying some good things. I saw you in New Orleans. Right on. However, many are going to say those same sorts of things and what you need is something to get you out ahead of the crowd. Here's your issue in my opinion: UNIVERSAL SERVICE. Congressman Rangel has proposed a draft but it simply won't fly. Too much opposition even if I think it is a good idea. Unfortunately, in my estimation, those who are in opposition to the draft or may even oppose Universal Service, are in NC parlance, "cutting off their nose to spite their face." What "peace" groups or even others in opposition don't get is that If we had a draft/Universal Service, a President would think twice before he sent us to war.

However, all that aside, Universal Service would be good for the country. For the last 12 years or so, I have been promoting the idea that we need Universal Service-- something unifying and what better to do it than requiring those 18-26 to give 18 months to 2 years in service to this great country. My basic theme has been simply that it is immoral to ask such an infinitesimally small number of Americans to fight our wars. Columnist Ben Stein says it this way, "In the old days, the rich, the famous, they all put it aside to fight. Now who fights for us: "Southerners, Hispanics from New Mexico, rural men and women from upstate NY. Small town boys and girls from the Midwest. No children of the powers on Wall Street go off and fight? They 've left the burden of defending an affluent nation to those who enjoy less of its affluence. They don't want to fight for a system that made them rich or a way of life that made them princes of finance."

I would add, and not original with me, "the kids who are in the military today are those whose economic prospects are less than stellar. They are high-school graduates who're not going to college because of costs, many young parents who need a regular paycheck and health care for their families." According to DOD statistics, soldiers come from households earning between $32,000 and $33,500. " (The median American income is $43,300.) It is not that the Volunteer Army is not working. We have a military that is as good as we've ever had. Simply, they are not representative of our country and this is not right nor good for us.

The difficulty, in my opinion, with selling the draft is simply too much opposition to the military, war, etc. Few can argue with universal service. From various reports, we've got lots of activism: students are getting involved in Teach America and there's been a resurgence in the Peace Corp. And, your comments in New Orleans, who came? Many students showed up to help.

Without a draft or any sort of Universal Service, kids by in large don't have any incentive to serve. I talk to parents of kids who are draft eligible with great regularity and simply unless there is an unusual circumstances, they don't think about it. Thinking has changed and more and more parents of eligible kids see the advantage of a Universal Service. Having a choice is the selling point. I have a blog called AllServe and constantly get comments about what a great idea this is.

What would a Universal Service do for America's kids? Lots of things, something like a common interest and experience, something that is nonexistent in our culture. Universal service would make a difference in changing our fractured America--a youth culture built around service. What I am discovering is that many Americans will go for Universal Service if youth is given an option. If they didn't want to choose from a list, let them define their own. American kids are smart and creative, we might be surprised at what they come up with and how willing they are to serve.

This is an issue that is begging for someone like yourself to take up--it is the JFK "ask not what your country can do for you" theme. Universal Service could be phased in over ten years and promoted among our youngsters now. A success story and the way AllServe could work is an organization I've read about: Teach America. I only know what I've read. They are getting top graduates who could be in medical school or Wharton business or wherever--yet choose to do something meaningful before they start their careers. Teach America sends graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years. For many, it has become a next step after graduation. These kids want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open. At Yale for instance, Teach America, drew applications from 12% of the graduates, 11% at Dartmouth, and 8% at Harvard. All told a record 17,350 applied in one year.

Are our present kids a post 9-11 generation ready to opt more aggressively for public service? I think so. Many of those volunteering for Teach America don't know what they want to do. The thought is that not knowing what to do, why not take some time to do something meaningful for a couple of years and think about the future. The military is as I've said only one of the options. Universal Service will work.

There's probably some opposition to Universal Service or anything related but what the hell: us North Carolinian know a cause when we see it. Universal Service will fly and I think you are just the one to make it happen.
I'm enclosing my memoirs, just off the press. I know you have more than you can do but in addition to recording my Vietnam experiences, I have included observations that I think would be helpful to a candidate: mini position papers on Iraq. Plus, the subtle thing of the book is for those who have not had military service to "get it" through Gun Totin Chaplain.
God bless you.         
Jerry Autry
Chaplain (COL), USA Ret  Sign out

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