Worse Than the Draft

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Well come on all you big strong men.
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
Got himself in a terrible jam.
Way down yonder in Vietnam!
~ Country Joe MacDonald

Wait one darn tootin minute here! Shouldn’t that last line be: "Way down yonder in… uh… Iraq?" No, that doesn’t work. Got it. "Way down yonder in Afghanistan!" At least it rhymes.

It may not be A Long Way To Tipperary but Country Joe’s classic "war" song still brings a tear to the eye. And it’s just as applicable today as it was during the glory days of the Vietnam War. Don’t you all love it when history repeats itself?

In Vietnam days charming little notices showed up in the mail informing the youthful Free Fodder when and where to report. Yessiree Colonel Klink, I’m talking about the draft, mandatory conscription into the armed services so the Youth of America could have the opportunity to die for… die for… just give me a minute… It was something noble and heroic. Oh yeah! Freedom and Democracy!

I’m not sure how getting your head blown off in South East Asia was supposed to defend der Fatherland… uh… I mean "Homeland" from the International Communist Conspiracy, but it was. I was just a twerp in high school wondering how this SoCal desert rat would weather the cold of Canada if I couldn’t convince my draft board that I was unfit for duty in my stylish Wizard of Oz Dorothy outfit while puffing on an asthma inhaler.

No longer are such shenanigans required.

Thanks to progressive enlightenment, yanking kids off the street and shoving an M-16 in their hands is no longer considered politically correct. Phew… what a relief! However, Uncle Scam does not want any child to be left behind. The opportunity for the current breed of whippersnappers to get their intestines splattered all over their Humvees for Freedom still exists.

As we all know the draft has been replaced with the much more insidious con game of the all-volunteer military. Madison Avenue packaged snake oil has moved in to seduce the young, loud and snotty into being all that they can be… uh… depending on what’s left of them after their multiple deployments to the Cradle of Civilization. See the world as you help to destroy it!

Big decisions face the potential high school grad. Like the timeless question: "What the hell do I do now?"

Hm… there is trouble in River City for America’s youth teetering on the edge of adulthood. Let’s see… can’t hang out in the pool hall anymore. Burger World isn’t hiring these days. Nobody’s putting a Dodge in their garage anymore. College? Good idea. That can stave off maturity for years… until the money runs out. Oh but wait! Ma and Pa are having one tough time making the payments on their sub-prime loan. And that C- grade average combined with those low test-scores… well… let’s just say Harvard and Yale aren’t climbing over each other to sign up little Scooter. Maybe there is a better way to better one’s self.

Luck be a lady tonight! Look who has your kid’s home phone number and address! Why it’s G.I. Joe! What a nice regular guy too. He’s cool. Teens can talk to him. He might even pop into the cafeteria for a chat during lunch period. Wow… this guy cares! Impressive, but… just how did the local military recruiter get this information?

His school gave it to him.

Like I said… Uncle Scam wants no child left behind. Education has nothing to do with it. You see, if you’ll fire up the old PC and check it out you just might find this cute clause in the NCLB Act: SEC. 9528. ARMED FORCES RECRUITER ACCESS TO STUDENTS AND STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION.

To save you all the trouble, basically it says the administrators of your kid’s school must give the military headhunters (don’t call them cannibals!) your kid’s name, address and phone number.

Oh, the wise parent can opt out by signing a form. Unfortunately, most school districts pass out a generic form that also automatically includes opting out of colleges and potential employers… like uh… America’s biggest sub-prime employer, The Federal Government… or Burger World.

The schools don’t really want to ruffle the feathers of the Federal Father Monster. That’s where the funding comes from. However, the informed parent can protect their young by writing a letter to the school administrators specifying that personal info may not be given to military recruiters but may, and should be given to colleges… or Burger World.

Well, things don’t look good for the youth stepping out of the Airstream Trailer for the first time do they? Maybe courses in Mandarin Chinese should be required curriculum in high school. Prom King Biff just might want to stow away on a freighter bound for Shanghai and get an illegal job as the gardener for a Chinese banker.

But I digress.

Does it seem like a good idea to have military recruiters poking their noses into our children’s futures? Despite the fact that eighteen-year-olds know everything (just ask one), aren’t they usually gullible and naïve boobs? Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit I was. How about you?

Teens are sitting ducks for the seductive powers of the military canib… uh… headhunters. Those bloodsuckers will promise opportunities too good to be true. And usually if it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. They’ll promise money for college, skills for civilian life, even US citizenship, and the opportunity of a lifetime, however short that may be. What great fun. Just ask the US Army’s virtual Sergeant Star. It’s just like a video game with even better graphics!

And graphics is what they’ll get.

Do the military headhunters tell them just how real the graphics are? Hell no! Staff Sergeant Norris sure as hell ain’t gonna pull out some colored glossies of head wounds from a fifty-caliber machine gun or bloated corpses rotting in the noonday sun. They might spoil the festive lunchtime mood.

Do you suppose the friendly military recruiter is going to mention anything about the roughly 120 suicides per week of veterans? Naw. Could some veterans be having… dare I say it… troubles? Well, I wouldn’t worry about that. It cuts down on taxpayer burden.

Anyone still in the service unlucky at getting out the hard way can bank on a second chance. Uncle Scam’s more than happy to send them back to the Iraqi Front, however many times it takes to get the job done.

Here are some other goodies that might not get promised. How about physical therapy to learn to walk again? Or therapy to learn how to write with the remaining hand? Is there funding for that spiffy new titanium hook? Will there be years of therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injuries? Gonna need it. Those IEDs pack such a wallop the shock waves alone are enough to scramble the brains for keeps. Best not to talk about these things when trying to sucker a seventeen-year-old kid into signing up before graduation.

What opportunities actually remain in civilian life for these shells of our youth after they’re discharged? Does anyone seriously believe life will be all hunky dory for the returning young veteran? Now that they’ve been used up and spit out, is Uncle Scam actually interested in lending a helping claw?

For every hour the Military recruiters prey on our young, the potential teenage enlistee should spend fifteen minutes with an actual combat veteran. Those fifteen minutes might save their lives. But does Uncle Sam really want to save lives?

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.

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