"That is what was unique about World War II," the governor told the crowd. "Our whole nation mobilized behind our men and women in service. You mobilized, you engaged, you did your duty, and the result was freedom. The result was victory."
Granted, the governor may have been indulging in some exaggeration. For the country also had its share of slackers, draft dodgers, black marketeers and shady types who made a killing on their government contracts -- at least till a no-nonsense senator from
But in general the country was indeed united as all pulled together to achieve victory, a word that could be used without qualification or embarrassment in those days before UN police actions and Overseas Contingency Operations took the place of wars with stated goals and consistent policies.
To quote one veteran at the state Capitol on Saturday,
In those days, it was taken for granted all would serve. Now just some do, for the armed forces are composed only of volunteers. Which means only some have the experience of being both citizens and soldiers in their lifetimes -- an unwholesome division that democracies have avoided since democracy itself was invented in ancient
The Athenians recognized that in a true democracy all must be citizens and soldiers. Unless all serve, and these days that includes women, a large segment of the country will have no experience with military service, discipline or ideals. Which is why, even though the professionalism of an all-volunteer force is welcome and needs to be preserved, the idea that all of us will serve in uniform at one time or another needs to be revived. So we don't become two nations, one that has known military service and one that never has.
No, the concept of universal military service -- the draft -- may never be popular, understandably enough. But it is necessary for the health of this republic or any other. Or as Pericles put it in his great oration, "the
The generation that fought and won the Second World War would have understood what Pericles meant. Do we now?