The answer is that it taught me a lot and I am very proud that I served my nation in my younger days. I was a pretty decent kid growing up, never got into any serious trouble although at times I had a rebellious streak. I did pretty well in high school and went to college, studied hard but also had a little fun and in June of 1969 I knew I faced a likely draft. It was just before the lottery numbers were used and since I had been summoned to take my Selective Service physical, passed it with the always dreaded 1-A evaluation, I knew my number would be up soon. I was right and just two days later I got the word that I would be subject to being chosen beginning in July. I opted instead for a delayed entry enlistment, good for ninety days, and with it received the Officer Candidate School (OCS) option after Basic and Advanced Individual Training. And so, September 23 came and I was in.
I have to tell you, however, more about why the Army was good for me and once the initial training, including the tough OCS course of twenty-six week were over, why I also grew to enjoy it. Nowhere else could a young man have so much responsibility at a young age as a new "butter bar" Second Lieutenant and, with that, learning what real responsibility was. Every soldier regardless of rank quickly learns that actions and choices taken have consequences and the Army and all military branches instill that very well. But the new commissioned officer learns that regardless of what takes place, there are no excuses made that will ever get you off the hook. Get it done, come Hell or High Water and sometimes you might face both. Oh, we had plenty of good days with the bad ones, but overall they were a wonderful learning experience and I am so glad today for what I experienced. And even though I decided to leave service approaching the eight year mark, the lessons learned have been retained and the memories have been tempered by the mind not wanting to remember the bad as much as the good.
Looking back, I think one of the biggest mistakes we have made in this country is to create an all volunteer force which, as we are finally beginning to realize, won't be sufficient to meet our obligations and responsibilities as a world leader. At some point if we want to remain free and honest, the draft will have to be on the table. And some of you will not agree with me on this, but I really don't want to see our young women in foxholes. I feel that way because I am a traditionalist and I know there are so many non-combat jobs that need to be filled so that our fighting men can fill the combat role. Perhaps a middle ground would be to allow women who want those roles to compete for them, yet subject to the exact same standards, not a lesser one which just lowers the readiness of the entire force. Even then, we face biological differences that can't easily be managed with men and women in the same foxhole when the action starts. Political correctness will never win a war and I know the Russians and the Chinese know that well. Honestly seeing the world we have today, war is never something that is ever off the table when tyrants continue to exist on this earth. And they do in large numbers, Yes, they do.
But whatever our specific view on that one particular aspect of today's service, spending time in the military develops good working habits, the ability to face difficult problems and deal with them rationally and with coolness and an understanding of why when we start a job we should have no thoughts of grandeur until we learn and prove we can carry out the basics first. It teaches knowing how to deal with a NO and learn and profit from that experience. From what I see today, we have a large number of young folks who need that lesson. Nothing is ever really free in this world, we have to work hard and earn the things we want. Military service does a great job of teaching that.