The cost of a volunteer military

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During my first semester at BYU I was walking home from church in the Harmon Building. I was accompanied by my roommate, who commented on the fact that the University hadn’t done much to commemorate September 11th that weekend. She said she liked it and was pleased to not attend another ceremony of mourning.

What stood out most to me about my friend’s comment, and still does, is the idea that she felt no concern in just forgetting the day or the consequences. I was in Germany when 9/11 happened. I was nowhere near the attack, yet I immediately began to fear for my father’s life. At 10 years old, I knew this could mean my dad, then a major in the U.S. Army, going to war.

He was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2005. He lived, but he came back a different man. I don’t know what he saw over there; he doesn’t talk about it much. Whatever it was, it left a deep mark. Some good things came from this experience, but that doesn’t make it any less hard to have a father with PTSD. And though he hates it, I worry about my dad every day.

My point in telling you this is that I have thought about the events that happened on 9/11 every day since the Towers fell. Eleven years later, the war is still happening. My father resigned from the military after his tour in Iraq. He hasn’t had to go back, but his friends have. My friend’s relatives have. As I’ve hit my twenties, my own friends have.

But obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone. For many of my peers, the war in the Middle East is of little concern. Why is this the case, when during World War II and Vietnam the entire nation was involved?

During World War II our nation rationed our supplies at home to support our troops. Women took over in the workplace to keep our country’s economy running while our men were away. During Vietnam, there were constant protests against the war. Both wars saw major involvement from U.S. citizens and held a spotlight in the media.

So what has changed?

For one thing, we don’t have a draft.

We are incredibly blessed to live in a nation where our military is all volunteer. The New York Times reported last year that less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty since 2001. That’s less than 1 percent of the population carrying the weight of the fight overseas.

The luxury of relying on so few for something so difficult has put our nation in a state of complacency. I understand that the media has been covering the war, that reporters have sacrificed so much to bring stories from the front lines. But their stories are on page 6, and we continue, unconcerned with the financial and life cost of a war being fought thousands of miles away.

So how do we fix this? Do we bring back the draft? I don’t think we should. History showed us the draft system is flawed and targets the working class. Those kids wealthy enough to attend college were largely allowed to avoid service. Americans who left high school and went straight to the workplace were fair game. I also am of the opinion that no one should be forced to serve in the military, if only because I have too many people that I care about who would be eligible to serve.

If we don’t implement a draft then we have to fix ourselves, particularly when it comes to keeping ourselves informed. We live in a world where we have the ability to be more informed than ever before. The Internet provides endless information to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

But this blessing also comes with a downside. We can now pick and choose what information we receive. Twitter allows us to follow one source and completely ignore another. We can choose to get our news solely from The Drudge Report or The Huffington Post. We can decide the only news we want are football scores or updates on Tom Cruise’s divorce. But when we limit ourselves this way, we are actively contributing to our own ignorance.

What we have a responsibility to do is be informed on everything and from every source. We should know why the economy is the way it is, the policies of our governmental candidates, and we should know why we are in Afghanistan.

But we can’t stop there. We have to be involved. It does no good to say, “I don’t like our president,” and then stay at home on election day. We need to vote informatively, not just for the president but for our local and state leaders, and then we need to call and write to be sure we get what we are promised from our candidates.

Our generation can change what we don’t like about this country; we just have to make the effort.

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