I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958, immediately after graduating from college, because I knew I was about to be drafted. I enlisted with the proviso that I would attend the Army Language School, now known as the Defense Language Institute, in Monterey, California. I wanted to study Chinese, a language that had always fascinated me, but once I arrived at the school, the army told me I was to study Vietnamese, a language I had never heard of—back then we called that part of the world French Indochina. That by-chance assignment was one of the two factors that allowed the army to totally change my life. The other was basic training.
My memory is that basic training lasted about ten weeks. It was the most rigorous training I ever experienced. Because of the endless physical exercise, my body was transformed from that of a boy into that of a man. I learned self-control and physical achievement far beyond anything I thought I was capable of. I learned that I had depths of courage and endurance that had never before been called to the surface. Through the endless humiliation inflicted on me and the other trainees by the drill sergeants, I learned a self-respect I had never known before. I learned teamwork, an invaluable lesson.
I have written here several times that I continue to believe that we should restore the draft. I never would have enlisted had it not existed. The army taught me the courage and self-reliance that allowed me to excel during my many years in Vietnam as a civilian operative. And it changed me into the man I am today, a man I am proud to be.
Let’s restore the selective service so that other young men can benefit as I did.
3 thoughts on “The Army”
Have always supported universal National service.
And women. In this day and age, there is no reason to adhere to the old gender specific roles. I know many women who have and do serve out country in our armed forces.
I have great respect for the people who serve in our armed forces. Without them, this country could not defend itself.
That said, there needs to be a draft provision for non-combatants. I know I could not pull a trigger at another human being. I’m not even sure I could shoot an animal for food.
When I was in grad school, someone saw me walking down the street in my work boots and tried to recruit me. I told him no thank you. Inside I was laughing, as I knew it would not be a good match. I was a very peace loving art student.
Thank you for your service.
Excellent observations. There used to be a provision for conscientious objectors to serve in non-military roles. If we brought back the draft, we’d have to bring that back, too.
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