To clarify my standing, I am not partial to either party, but I do hate what's happening to our young men and women today. As Max Cleland, the former U.S. senator who lost two legs and an arm in the Vietnam War, recently said, "The draft movement will be coming next" -- or words to that effect.
The way our foreign policy is going today we will need a large increase in our military to fill the gap. Our national and other cemeteries are already filled with thousands of those young men and women who paid their dues, a lot of them in politician-supported senseless wars. Vietnam vets (including my nephew, who served in the Marine Corps there) came home to a people that held them in disgrace during and after that war instead of placing the blame where it justly belonged. To them, I take off my hat. They certainly paid their dues.
If the draft is reinstated, I would like for the young people of our country, both men and women 18 years or older -- who would be subject to the draft -- to know that war is not a Sunday-school picnic. To those who are called, you may be faced with your mom or dad, or your wife or husband, being presented with a neatly folded triangle-shaped American flag, like my brother's wife was.
You also will be entitled to a free white Vermont marble headstone with your name, rank, and serial number and the branch in which you served. Also comes the benefit of burial in a national cemetery, like Fort Logan in Denver. If you are married, your wife or husband, as the case may be, can also be interred, one body above the other. And, in addition, your survivor will receive $250 plus whatever service pay you had coming, just for paying your due.
I will be 87 in December and use a walker to get around. I would gladly volunteer if President Bush and Vice President Cheney (former CEO of Halliburton, a large defense contractor) would shoulder an M-16 with me, or whatever is now used by the military. For you young folk who will be of minimum draft age, I don't know if you know what an M-16 is, but you'd find out in a hurry.
It is said that the job market is getting better; I know two industries that must be hiring and working overtime -- the manufacturers of our Old Glory, which I am proud to salute. There are also plenty of jobs available in the armed services, and the cutters of marble headstones are doing a land-office business.
At the present time, the Defense Department is reneging on its promise to discharge those who served their hitch and are calling them back, even many in their 50s and 60s. My daughter-in-law's brother, 44, was recently recalled to ship out to Iraq. We're just hoping his bank will suspend his home mortgage payments until he comes back, if he does. Indeed, we are stretched to the limit policing some of the countries of the world.
Ask yourself to what degree you support the war in Iraq. Is it strong enough that you would support a tax increase to pay for the war and strong enough that you would be willing to quit driving gas-guzzling vehicles, using Middle East oil, to possibly help save young American lives?
Our politicians seem to be using our young people for only God knows what. So far, the lives of more than 1,000 of our GIs have been claimed and over 7,000 wounded, and we are still counting. For those young men and women who are not familiar with the term "GI," that means "government issue."
Howard Yambura is a World War II veteran who lives in Colorado Springs.
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