Thomas Delany Jr. Staff Photographer. Judy Masterson, resporter for The News Sun. 7/12/06
Updated: November 30, 2010 7:56PM
I’ve been leaning toward the idea of mandatory military service. It just seems like the fair thing to do. If more Americans had a personal stake in our national security, maybe we wouldn’t be so easily bamboozled into war.
But in order to accomplish a nationwide, two-year, post-high school stint in the military, the government would have to run a summer school, a fat camp and an expungement program, the latter to erase youthful indiscretions that resulted in convictions for crimes like assault and breaking and entering.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a speech last month in which he reported that 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are “unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit.”
Last month, I attended the retirement ceremony of Army Sgt. Major Kelly Brown, a Round Lake–area recruiter, who earned praise from both the young men he recruited and the staff sergeants he oversaw at the Round Lake Beach recruiting station.
Brown, who enlisted 20 years ago, was “a great mentor and teacher” who insisted that his soldiers “go to college, get a degree, be successful,” his soldiers said.
According to Brown’s former boss, Lt. Col. Brian Bassett, commander of the Chicago Recruiting Battalion, just three of every 10 men and women who apply, qualify for the U.S. Army.
“Remember that movie ‘Stripes?’” Bassett asked, referring to the 1981 film that depicted shenanigans in an Army boot camp filled with dummies, slobs and misfits. “It’s not like that. A soldier has to qualify physically, morally and intellectually. And, he’s got to have a high school diploma.”
The way I figure, if we make military, or an alternative national service mandatory, maybe we’ll start fixing what’s wrong with education in this country. And maybe we’ll start turning out more citizens the caliber of Kelly Brown.