Lest one not forget the roughly 1.4 million active members of the military all enlisted voluntarily. A fact so ingrained it is easy to take for granted. I think we all wish militaries were not necessary, but they are, and they always have been, and they always will be. Recorded history bears that out.
Under current law, all male US citizens are required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The Selective Service System maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription.
Conscription, commonly known as the draft, has been implemented in the US five times. The American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Compulsory, or mandatory military service, exists in roughly 26 countries including some United States allies like Norway, Finland, Israel, Turkey, and South Korea, to name a few.
Stating the obvious, but the fact that young men and women voluntarily serve in the United States means those who wish not to serve, don't have to serve. This fact should not be taken for granted.
The sacrifice made to serve our country can only be known by those serving, but the tremendous sacrifice is broader than the men and women in uniform. Mothers, fathers, siblings, husbands, wives, and children of members of the military all sacrifice greatly.
The other parachuted into France the night before the D-Day invasion. I have often wondered how he felt boarding the plane. Surrounded by scared men to his left and right, what was going through his mind as he shuffled to the door, jumped from the plan, and floated to the ground? He was wounded in the war but survived. My uncle was shot in the jungles of Vietnam. Also wounded but survived.
I was too young to thank my grandfathers for their service, and I never told my uncle that I was grateful and proud. Opportunities missed, so thank you, Henry, thank you, Tom, thank you, David, thank you, James. I draw strength from their service, as whatever the perceived hardship I am enduring at any given time pales in comparison.
Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in my lifetime. Regardless of what side of the aisle you align yourself with politically, we should all agree the men and women of our nation's military deserve our gratitude.
The great Winston Churchill once said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." He was referring to a time more troubling, but I think it applies to all Veterans.
I encourage you to find a Veterans Day Ceremony this weekend. Sit quietly and listen, and when the service is over walk up to a Veteran, extend your hand, and say thank you. It is the least we can do.
Michael J. Mastrullo