On Monday, please remember Memorial Day is more than the end of a three-day weekend celebrating summer’s arrival. The true meaning fades with each passing year, probably due to two events: the National Holiday Act of 1971 (making Memorial Day a three-day weekend) and the end of the military draft in 1973.
Warm-hearted patriots go out of their way to thank veterans on Memorial Day, but their gratitude should be reserved for Veterans Day. We can never repay the war dead, but we can honor their sacrifices by considering the unpopular: a return to the military draft.
We are witnessing an epidemic of ingratitude and disrespect for our constitutional republic, our freedoms and our blessings. Three consecutive generations have never faced compulsory military service. What better way to appease those who clamor for equality, pay equity and “fairness” than a 729-day stint in the Army? Those selected for induction will quickly observe “micro aggressions” and find their safe spaces within foxholes and communal toilets. They will learn manners and understand sacrifice.
During the previous draft, only a small percentage of folks were inducted into the military. For example, from 1965 until 1973, fewer than 2 million men were drafted. Only 38 percent of those drafted served in Vietnam. Those who weren’t drafted displayed a healthy respect for those who served.
A benefit of the draft was the long waiting lists to join Reserve and National Guard units. Serving alongside their active-duty counterparts, all Reserve and Guard personnel attended basic and advanced training for less than six months.
Drill sergeants and drill instructors quickly motivated every recruit to work with others, most of whom came from varying socioeconomic and educational strata. Reserve and Guard soldiers befriended and appreciated those headed to a combat zone or other rigorous assignments.
Our Selective Service System does an excellent job of registering eligible people. However, a continuing military draft, however minuscule, would ensure a smoother mobilization in the event of a two or three-pronged enemy attack or a national calamity. Furthermore, conscription would provide some relief to the service members who have served multiple combat deployments the past 15 years.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” More importantly, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This weekend, take a moment to remember, but more importantly appreciate, the ultimate sacrifices of our sons and daughters.
Our continued success as a free country has been paid in full, and we must never forget the meaning of Memorial Day: honoring our war dead. We can honor our war dead with a strong military and by exposing the ignorant and the ungrateful to the realities and costs of freedom.
Daniel M. Jennings is a retired United States Army captain, who served from 1970-1992, and a retired Boulder City Police sergeant.