Friday, November 13, 2009

The Fallen

Behind the politics of every war are the soldiers who fight it. On this day in 1942, the minimum draft age in the U.S. was lowered from 21 to 18. While our armed forces serve voluntarily today, a trend towards younger and younger recruits was set when the age of the draft dropped by three years.

I think of this when I read the "Faces of the Fallen" in the papers every week, and I see pictures of teens who never saw their twenties. I think of this when I realize on Veteran's Day that I have lived almost twice as long as both surviving and deceased veterans of our recent wars. I think of this when I see unemployment rates rise to precarious rates for recent high school graduates, and I realize that joining the military is one of the few choices that many of our country's young people have.
Forty years later, also on this day in 1982, the Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC. I wonder how many of those servicemen memorialized on that wall, who were drafted and lost their lives in that war, were 18, 19, or 20 years old.

By Pilar Oberwetter

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