adventures of my mind

Duty of a Soldier

July 14th, 2008 by | Word Count: 1329 | Reading Time 5:21 1,554 views

Over the weekend, I visited our local Redbox again to pick up some new movies to rent and watch. I picked up the movie “Stop-Loss” and while watching it and discussing the movie with my wife, I thought it would be a perfect movie to write an article about. First off, I want to give you a mini-review. Personally, I thought the movie was worth the rent. It is a typical story about a war hero coming home and experiencing issues returning to the real world. However, the particular issue that sets this story apart from other similar films is the term Stop-Loss and the government’s choice to enact this “obscure” rule in a soldier’s contract. With the President invoking the Stop-Loss rule, soldiers whose enlisted time was coming to an end were forced to stay and serve additional time involuntarily.

The story of the movie “Stop-Loss” is about a soldier in this predicament. He has served his time, served his tour in Iraq, and now he is returning home with the full intention of retiring from the military and rejoining the real world. However, on the verge of leaving, he is notified of his scheduled deployment to serve another tour. His superior officers inform him of the Stop-Loss rule contained within the military law/enlistment contract and the President has chosen to invoke it. The film follows him through his reactions and choices over the next several days. I’m not going to give away the movie so I’ll stop there. As I said earlier, the movie is worth renting so give it a look. While it is a “war flick,” it doesn’t settle for the simplicity most other “soldier versus real world” films eventually come down to.

Now that we have an idea of Stop-Loss and what it means, let’s talk about the article title “Duty of a Soldier.” I am a lifelong civilian with no military experience so this is going to be coming from an outsider’s point of view. However, I don’t think what we are going to talk about is something that requires military experience. We are going to be talking about something I believe has replaced the duty of a soldier in our current military force today. Since the ending of the draft after the Vietnam War, our military has moved to a force made up entirely of volunteer soldiers. How do you get people to volunteer for the military? Some people are of course still called to military service just like some are called specifically for certain professions. There are others who join the military because there are no other options in their lives. And then, there are those that use the military as a stepping stone in their lives to serve a purpose.

My personal opinion is that during the peace years between Vietnam and the first Gulf War, our military became largely comprised of people using the service as a stepping stone for their personal lives. Is there anything wrong with that? No, but there is a major difference between a soldier who is called to duty and a soldier who is there for the sole purpose of utilizing the military as a stepping stone in their life. The military itself is partly to blame. Year after year and advertisement after advertisement, we saw what the military could do for you as the individual. Join the service, serve your time, get paid, learn necessary job skills and after you retire, get your college paid for via the G.I. Bill. The military began competing with colleges for the younger generations and this was their method. Offer the young adult a choice that “prepares” them for life, saves them money, and makes them more marketable creates a volunteer military full of short term service people.

There are still large portions of the military comprised of service people who were called to serve our country. But, as we have all seen and been told by the media and government, our military has become extremely thin by their standards. Even with a nation over 250 million in population, our military strength has become threatened because we cannot keep our troop population growing at an acceptable rate. If you follow the news, you may know that the military has been relaxing their rules on acceptance. They are now allowing people into the military who they were rejecting before. They NEED more volunteers. Yes, it is hard to recruit during a conflict, especially a lengthy one. Initially, after 9.11, people were bursting through the doors joining the military in an effort to protect our proud nation and live our patriotism physically. However, almost 7 years later, the initial impact has worn thin and people have returned to their normal, daily lives. How do you recruit volunteers for a bloody war which the media continually compares to Vietnam?

No longer is the G.I. Bill bringing in volunteers. No longer are the skills you learn in the military a positive for your future life because you may never get to see that future life. The military is recruiting service people for immediate action. If you are a person who is not called to service by your heart, you are most likely only joining the military at this point because it is the last option for survival in your current state of living. Yes, our military is still strong and that is a testament to those individuals in the military. But how long can our military troop population stay strong with the decrease in recruitment of soldiers who were called to duty? We may be getting by in the meantime, but in the future, if a conflict arises in addition to what is already going on, will we have enough troop strength to protect our country?

Our country is continually being fed disenchantment by our media. They continually fill the news with all the bad politicians, all the bad policy, and all the turmoil of our existence. If everything we are fed is what is bad with our country, how patriotic can we be as a society? Yes, we like to think that we all make up our own minds. The truth of the matter is many people have their opinion made for them. So here we are, watching our military become strained because we cannot keep troop strength growing. Patriotism is not instilled within our younger generations because patriotism involves you giving something up for everyone, sharing. Our society has turned from patriotism to individualism. Some may remember and some may not be old enough, but JFK stated “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” It was one of the speeches that carries with it great impact. Is our society living along those lines today? No.

The military is not a job, it is a calling. Being “Called to Duty” is a testament to the individual’s patriotism and ethical and moral makeup. We must return our nation to the basis of JFK’s speech. We must not worry about our individualistic needs every moment of our life. We live in a nation born for freedom and to protect that freedom, we must have patriots. Patriots are called to the military to give everything for their country. They are not applying for a job, they are living a way of life. If our country would return to our roots of true patriotism, we would not have to worry about offering incentives for joining the military. It would be bursting at the seams without them. 9.11 stirred our nation’s patriotism because we all felt our way of life threatened. Patriotism does not need a single event to stir the fires within. We must nurture what is good about our country, not what is bad. We must again think of our forefathers and generations past who sacrificed their lives for what we have. Bringing back our patriotism is essential to the protection of our country.

2 Responses »

  1. Ann
    on July 27th, 2008 at 11:34 pm:

    This is a good article. I think you have brought our attention back to the basic, where our minds hardly ever travel any more. Our country does need to bring back patriotism for I believe our county needs people who truly are serving our country because they believe they can make a difference in the future of our country. I commend them on their bravery and their efforts to keep our country free.

    on July 28th, 2008 at 9:00 am:

    Our country as a whole, seems to have lost the ability to respect our military. Living during a volunteer army period or during extended periods of peace, has altered how people view our armed forces. We still need patriots and they deserve to be given their due respect.

    However, isn’t it weird that our country respected more the drafted military than the volunteer one which we have now? They didn’t have a choice of whether to fight or not, but they received their just respect and accolades. Now, the volunteer army is treated for the most part as outcasts of society. Shouldn’t it be conceivable to think that someone who VOLUNTEERS to give their life for their country should receive a little more respect than what they are receiving? Just a thought.

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