Should the Military Draft be Reinstated?
About the Author

Merry, a native of Southern California, enlisted in the Air Force in 1982 as a Personnel Specialist. He was commissioned through AFROTC in 1989, earning his degree in Marketing from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona. He holds a master's degrees in Human Resources Management and Military Arts & Science.

After his commissioning, Merry returned to the Personnel career field and served at every level of the Air Force. He was the Career Field Manager for Personnel, Manpower and Services, and was selected as the Air Force's Chief of Compensation and member of the 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation. He has deployments to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other locations throughout the Middle East.

Merry is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama; and was the Senior Air Force Fellow at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. At the time of his retirement he was the Commander of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations (AFMAO) responsible for DoD's sole Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Delaware.

Should we bring back the draft?

Should women be required to register for selective service?

Every now and then, we get these questions or requests for MOAA to engage directly toward one result or the other. From our broad audience come equally broad opinions on both of these subjects.

MOAA’s position on the draft has been consistent: We support the all-volunteer “career” force as a necessary component of a strong national defense. Ever since the draft was eliminated in 1973, our military services have worked to recruit, train, and equip volunteers who join by choice — the result continues to be the most formidable, capable military on the planet. See our previous article, “The Core of Our Nation’s Military is the All-Volunteer Force,” for more on the topic of the all-volunteer force.

MOAA has deferred to the service and defense secretaries regarding women in combat, and in December 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women. What didn’t follow was a decision to require women to register for selective service (the draft), and the following year was somewhat contentious on the topic because men registered, women did not.

In a 2016 survey, MOAA solicited feedback from our currently serving members on this issue. We found the majority of those currently serving said that with the opening of all combat roles to women, women should be required to register for the draft.

But not everyone agreed, thus keeping the issue of women registering for the draft alive on Capitol Hill and earning the attention of Congress, which stepped in to solve the problem by identifying the need for a study.

The FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act established the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to “conduct a review of the military selective service process (commonly referred to as ‘‘the draft’’); and (2) consider methods to increase participation in military, national, and public service in order to address national security and other public service needs of the Nation.”

This study will take place over 30 months and will include the gathering of opinions and subject-matter reviews.

MOAA already has shared with commission members concerns regarding conscription as an offset to the challenges of getting volunteers. We were assured the efforts of the commission are quite broad and more focused on generally affecting the desire or propensity to serve. This might help solve the national problem without conscription. They did agree conscription would only be likely in a national crisis requiring the likes and numbers of citizens who quickly could be amassed, trained, and equipped — in other words, a global engagement.

The debate will continue, but you now get a voice in the process. You can provide your comments directly through the commission’s website, Share your thoughts on these seven questions, which are posted on the website above the answer block:

  1. Is a military draft or draft contingency still a necessary component of U.S. national security?
  2. Are modifications to the selective service system needed?
  3. How can the U.S. increase participation in military, national, and public service by individuals with skills critical to address the national security and other public service needs of the nation?
  4. What are the barriers to participation in military, national, or public service? 
  5. Does service have inherent value, and, if so, what is it?
  6. Is a mandatory service requirement for all Americans necessary, valuable, and feasible?
  7. How does the U.S. increase the propensity for Americans, particularly young Americans, to serve?


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There are 26 Comment(s)
  1. on 09 Mar 2018 at 9:58 AM

    I am a physician from New York City who was dragged into the USN in the early seventies much to my regret. BOY, was I wrong !! It changed my life and my way of thinking, and I learned a great deal about life that I would have missed if I had followed the ignorance of youth. I truly thing the draft should be reinstituted...and for women.

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  2. on 03 Mar 2018 at 3:59 PM

    I absolutely believe that there should be a compulsory military or public service requirement for all citizens, beginning at age 18, for a minimum duration of two years. No deferments. Defending (or serving) this nation should not be placed on the backs of volunteers who comprise less than 1% of our population. I believe that such service will go a long way toward changing this extraordinary sense of entitlement which seems to exist in our society today. I voluntarily served in the active and reserve components of the Air Force for 40+ years, rising from E-1 to 0-6. It shaped my life as a citizen and patriot, and endowed me with superb values and guiding principles, including Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all endeavors.

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  3. on 02 Mar 2018 at 2:44 PM

    I think it fair to say that (nearly) every patriot would agree that service to one's country should be an integral part of basic citizenship and that a mandatory draft (involving both sexes) should be a part of that service. In my opinion, such a draft should require service of varying lengths (one year, 18 months, two years, and various longer periods) with the one year period being mandatory and accompanied with a minimal salary and, upon successful completion, a modicum of reward (one year's tuition at an educational institution or trade school). The longer periods of service should be accompanied by more valuable rewards (higher salaries and longer educational benefits). Importantly, such periods of service should offer the "recruits" an option to enter military service or to select community service not related to the life threats which accompany military service. Essentially, the non-military service component of such a system should resemble the Civilian Conservation Corps which so successfully helped our country work its way out of The Great Depression. Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that such a system will never come to pass for two primary reasons: we have waited too long to establish such a system and there is no one in Congress who has the intestinal fortitude to even mention the word "draft," let alone propose legislation to bring it about. Our creation of an all volunteer military force has created a citizenry which views military service not as a duty to be performed by all who are capable of doing so, but as a last resort job - - one which is to be performed by a military class which occupies the lower rungs of our social ladder. We have converted the entire subject of "war" into just another line item in the budget and a normal part of government business. War and dying have become a permanent cost of doing business. A permanent war. Fought by other people's sons and daughters. Signifying nothi

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  4. ROBERT M. FREED, CWO4(RET), USN ROBERT M. FREED, CWO4(RET), USN on 02 Mar 2018 at 2:33 PM

    There should be mandatory service for EVERYONE after high school(civilian or military).

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  5. on 02 Mar 2018 at 2:07 PM

    Very timely and a much needed discussion. I believe that a mandatory service period for all US Citizens beginning at age 17-18 for three years would benefit not just the individuals but the nation as a whole. It does not have to be limited to military service but some thing which could instill a sense of civic duty and pride and service, and provide an little bit of common bonding for youth. I would recommend a very minimum wage be paid, but a saving account be set up so at the end of the tour of duty the person could have access to spend on further education or training or for a fling if they should so choose.

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  6. on 02 Mar 2018 at 10:56 AM

    There are many countries that mandate national service, and that would include the military or some form of domestic civil service up to two years. Given the fact that s decreasing percentage of military applicants actually qualify for military service, then it's time to reinstitute the Selective Service; my age group would be from 19 - 30. For some form of civic service, then the age group could be expanded from 19 - 35. People have to feel vested in their country -- just relying of a smaller number of volunteers isn't going to cut it!!

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  7. on 01 Mar 2018 at 8:42 PM

    I feel every young person should serve their country. This does not mean necessarily the military, but government programs. The children of today have no appreciation of our Country. This service should be at least 2 years and include everyone,women as well.

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  8. on 01 Mar 2018 at 6:33 PM

    I am 100% behind the idea of a draft that combines either compulsory military service or compulsory national service. Both options that would be available to the draftee, both male and female, would greatly aid the country as well as the individual. Part of the sweetener that would entice a greater willingness to participate is the forgiveness of a predetermined portion of the draftee's prior educational debt or an account that could be used for education after service. No one should be exempt. Age and physical ability would be the only disqualified.

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    • on 02 Mar 2018 at 10:59 AM

      While I agree with the general concept on this post; I don't feel that ALL of the educational funds previously drawn and spent should be "forgiven". Maybe 60%, but they did get the loans or grants and they have a responsibility to pay back some of what we the taxpayers paid for them to get an education. Just my opinion.

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  9. Captain J.L. Wagor Captain J.L. Wagor on 01 Mar 2018 at 5:02 PM

    The Draft should include all US Citizens 18 years old and older with no exclusions except for medical requirements. The system should be similar to former drafts. This United States is the responsibility of all who are able bodied. No free loaders, school exempt, congressionally exempt or religious exemptions. We can remain a religious culture and nation even if it requires the use of weapons to continue the freedom of all of our legal citzens. Those who cross into other countries to escape the draft should be returned by that country and placed in special units at the front of any battle we encounter. Those who cannot pass the literary requirement should be taught to read and write to the extent they learn the difference between friend and foe, plus which end the bullet comes out of the barrel.

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  10. Commander (Ret) Mann Commander (Ret) Mann on 01 Mar 2018 at 3:17 PM

    Compulsory military service did not lead to a better military, as we have seen; but it may well have led to a better citizenry. Those that never served have no true concept of self or shared sacrifice for the good of the whole. Required National Service does not put these young adults in a position where they must compromise their beliefs. Many countries have compulsory service which helps reduce the cost of beneficial government programs and instill a sense of unity within its citizenry. There are many areas in which they could serve in other than the military services, the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Fire Fighting Service, or the National Park Service just to name a few. Institutions of higher education are great at fostering independence but do very little to develop camaraderie and team spirit. A great number of benefits can be achieved through this service, both for the individual and the country. The individual will gain valuable on-the-job experience learning to be part of a team putting concepts into practice. Receiving an intern’s wage, they won’t experience the frequent period of post-graduation unemployment, but immediately become a contributing member of society. Natural leaders will rise to the top and benefit greatly by being able to hone those skills in a non-retribution environment. Terms of service can be adjusted based on departmental need with possible extensions for the repayment of school debt.

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  11. on 01 Mar 2018 at 2:50 PM

    All citizens, 18 years of age and older should register, regardless of sex and physical condition. In the event of national emergency, this information should be available to planners.

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  12. John6185 John6185 on 01 Mar 2018 at 2:49 PM

    A lot of today's youth have no sense of direction, a lack of respect for authority, no marketable skills, wander listlessly and get into mischief and have no guidance parental or otherwise and if we are to have a strong nation we do need to bring back the draft. Many of the young people will end up in prison or worse with a structured environment. A draft allows a cross-section of our society to serve in our military and not simply those without a job.

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  13. on 01 Mar 2018 at 1:59 PM

    No. The government should not be able to compel citizens to take up arms for wars they may not agree with. I served 20 years and it was an honor to do so. I can also honestly say it had an incredibly positive impact on my life. Actions such as the draft and the ACA are sobering examples of how close we are to having a very real and oppressive tyrannical government. Should we face another Great War beyond what the all volunteer military can handle then the government should call for any and all citizens who are able and willing to join. However it should still be clear that their service is voluntary upon entry but once committed they are conscripted for a legally required term of service. The choice should always be a part of a truly free society. Full stop.

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    • on 02 Mar 2018 at 2:13 PM

      A draft today would be a waste of time & money. 70% of the men of draft age would be rejected as soon as they walked in the door. Obesity is one reason. 25% of high school graduates can't pass the AFQT. A better use of increased funding is higher pay, and services for families of deployed troops. I was enlisted in US Naval Reserve 3 years; got to 3rd Class Petty Officer (E-4) Commissioned 4 years active duty; got to :Lieutenant (O-3).

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  14. on 01 Mar 2018 at 12:56 PM

    The Draft should include all US Citizens 18 years old and older with no exclusions except for medical requirements that we use to have. The system should be run like it was before the draft was eliminated. This nation belongs to all its citizens and they ALL should be held responsible to support the nation in any and all ways. No free loaders.

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  15. on 01 Mar 2018 at 12:24 PM

    Definitely reinstate and include women (being equal is being equal). Draft pulled many people out of inner city and gave them training and a step up in the jobs they can hold. Draft provided a "common base" for citizens and levels the background of experience among young people in the country. Draft brings back the association between citizens and loyalty to their country and dilutes the feeling of "I am a citizen so give me my "free lunch" rights. It promotes the idea that citizenship includes responsibilities as well as rights.

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  16. on 01 Mar 2018 at 12:18 PM

    This country should have compulsory military training, similar to that of Switzerland and Finland. One big problem we have is the fact that our young people are not educated enough to the point here they can handle or operate our new weapons systems. They simply don't qualify.

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  17. Pete Goodman Pete Goodman on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:59 AM

    Definitely !

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  18. on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:50 AM

    Need a dual track - Volunteer plus draft if necessary. Maybe we can turn some snowflakes into men. Is that too harsh?

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  19. David L Rowlands. COL,USArmy Ret David L Rowlands. COL,USArmy Ret on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:40 AM

    Yes. We all are aware of why there should be. We commit as a Country or we don't. The current burden on the "few" is too much.

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  20. TAdams TAdams on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:37 AM

    The lack of discipline among today's youth demonstrates the need for military training - as long as the consequences for failing to comply with this requirement are harsh and strictly enforced. I do not believe that today's politicians have the courage to pass such laws. They would rather constantly redeploy our volunteers to war zones until they are destroyed physically and mentally and then discard them without adequate care for their physical and mental war wounds. Get all families to have a stake in military interventions and watch all politicians take more interest in our country's security. As far as who gets drafted, I do not see how you can exclude women although combat roles should be optional.

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    • on 02 Mar 2018 at 11:04 AM

      Gee, look at the exceptionally small number of members of Congress actually who served in the active force or the National Guard. Speaks for itself!!

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  21. on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:31 AM

    1.Is a military draft or draft contingency still a necessary component of U.S. national security? Yes. 2. Are modifications to the selective service system needed? Yes. The system should include everyone regardless of gender, sexual preference, religion, etc.--no one is exempt from serving for two years following what should be their high school graduation--no exemptions for anyone even for physical disability --see 3 below. 3. How can the U.S. increase participation in military, national, and public service by individuals with skills critical to address the national security and other public service needs of the nation? Increase participation by increasing opportunities. Not everyone can or wants to be a soldier. Thus, offer opportunities to serve but as other than front line soldiers--teachers, school and hospital aides, park service, rebuilding Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, etc., but on assignments with specific goals--and offer non-front line military jobs to those unable to serve because of physical disability in administrative,tech jobs. Ask the potential "draftees" for suggestions. 4. What are the barriers to participation in military, national, or public service? Political unwillingness to recognize the need to ask our "youth" for suggestions, especially the women; they are full of ideas, but no one is listening. 5. Does service have inherent value, and, if so, what is it? Yes. The greatest value is the self worth service of any type results in creating in the people serving. They learn to think of others than just their own belly buttons! 6. Is a mandatory service requirement for all Americans necessary, valuable, and feasible? see answers to 3, 4, and 5 above. 7. How does the U.S. increase the propensity for Americans, particularly young Americans, to serve? Step one, ask the young American--especially the women--for suggestions--listen to them without dismissing what they say. Step two, demonstrate the value in service by

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  22. on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:00 AM

    I want military service to be part of a requirement for national service

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    • john6185 john6185 on 01 Mar 2018 at 3:00 PM

      I want mandatory military service for all Americans beginning with the age of 18, perhaps then they would respect the flag and Anthem and understand that this country was bought at a price.

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  23. on 01 Mar 2018 at 9:03 AM

    I have been a supporter of the DRAFT since before it was eliminated in 1974. The "citizen soldier" concept of conscription, making it a potential civic duty of every youngster to come to the aid of the nation in time of need promoted a more genuine patriotism. The "hired gun," mercenary, or praetorian guard model tends to divorce the overall populace from having an interest in what might or might not be the real interest of America in any conflict. The praetorian guard model also tends to divorce the active duty military personnel's interest from that of America and its taxpayers. The merrcenary tends to be more intetrested in pay and benefits and uninterested in protecting the nation. This has longer term major negatives, as history has shown. The DRAFT makes not only the draftee a participant but makes his family from whom he is removed for military service an active participant. The DRAFT minimizes (it may not wholly eliminate) the mischief of our politicians who may use our Armed Forces for agendas unrelated to America's interest and more related to their interest (often financial interest) of one of their constituent (financial) backers. Indeed, we need look no further than the American Revolution to find foreign princelings who sold their populace (their young solders) to the highest bidder to line the pockets of governmental masters. We have had this problem at times - even under the DRAFT. Please read "WAR IS A RACKET," by MG Smedley Darlington Butler, published in 1935 (still in[print). General Butler (1881-1940) had the distinction of being one of only 19 men to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice in combat. He (Butler) was also a helper of James E. Van Zandt (1898-1986) in organizing the VFW. I was a "mustang," and I only rose to the rank of major, so others may know better. I tire mightily of having folks "thank" me for my service, many of whom were either outright "draft dodge

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    • on 01 Mar 2018 at 11:10 AM

      Your analysis and statement says it all, Major. And with the emancipation of women and incessant drive for equality in every respect, it seems only fair to include them in the draft. Every able-bodied American, irrespective of gender should give back a couple of years of service for the privilege of citizenship in the greatest country on planet Earth!!

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  24. on 01 Mar 2018 at 6:45 AM

    I strongly agree with both Cols. Wilcox and Howard above. All young men should be required to serve their country.

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  25. Colonel (Ret) Bruce Wilcox Colonel (Ret) Bruce Wilcox on 01 Mar 2018 at 6:37 AM

    I believe the greatest political decision that has hurt this country was elimination of mandatory military training. Currently, only 8% of our population has any military background and in the last 10 years those on active duty have dropped from 1% to 1/2 %. Joseph Stalin said “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.” (Are we there yet?) We, as a Nation, have become more concerned about the ancillary things, the distractions, but ignore the basic tenants that assure the longevity of our Democracy. We are the “useful idiots” Lenin spoke of that vote for charismatic proponents of environment/pollution, welfare, gay rights, drugs, abortion, gun control and a preponderance of other distractions “ad nauseam.” I understand some of these are valid concerns, but in “bondage” none will be relevant. We must have a Democracy first! Only our Military can save us. Not only will we need the “currently unacceptable” to rebuild our National strength, they deserve a chance to right their lives. The marginal cost to America’s Military for training will pale compared to the cost of dissention and irresponsibility our Country now experiences!”

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    • john6185 john6185 on 01 Mar 2018 at 2:58 PM

      Israel has mandatory military service in the IDF for all citizens (except Orthodox Jews) and men at the age of 18 are required to serve 3 years and women half that long. They are issued a rifle when they enter the military and take that rifle with them everywhere they go. Should they lose the rifle, it is another mandated enlistment for them. Their military isn't comprised of pansies, they are hardcore and fight for their country. Our people? Sad to say, the majority won't fight and couldn't care less what happens unless it directly affects them-then they're upset and demonstrate. Otherwise, we don't hear about the "silent majority."

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  26. Colonel (Ret) Bart Howard Colonel (Ret) Bart Howard on 28 Feb 2018 at 2:52 AM

    I have heard all the arguments for and against the draft, but what it comes down for me, is the question: How do we go to war as a "nation" rather than just military members and their families. When conflicts are fought by the 1%, with no one really asking how much it costs, how it will be paid for and even caring if we are making progress or not--it means the American public can either be interested in war or chose to let other people do it. The concept of the draft was that when the nation went to war, citizens had "skin in the game." I don't sense that at all anymore. In fact I don't know of any group that is really pushing for a timeline for success. Large contract firms would be happy if they could support operations in Afghanistan for the next 50 years. The military continues to rotate in and out and senior officers all understand that they don't want to complain on their watch. Congressional inquiries are labeled bipartisan. I don't know the answer, but I would like to see our public engaged in conflict and not see the nation going to war as if it is some unique exercise that only military people perform.

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    • on 10 Mar 2018 at 2:12 PM

      I vehemently agree with Col Bart Howard's comments and those who point out that abolishing the draft has hurt our potential to respond in a global crisis. I support reinstatement of the draft on a gradual basis over the next decade. Further, I have a solution for the "Dreamers" issue that has paralyzed Congress and caused further revenge on the Trump administration for winning the 2016 election. Under my plan, the "Dreamers" would serve in our Nation's military services for 3 to 5 years, depending upon the length of time they have been present in our country and, if adults, what they have accomplished since reaching adulthood (19 years of age). An example would be if they had attained an advance education beyond high school such as a bachelors degree or masters, they would serve three years in a military service where they would apply for and work toward citizenship. Mandatory service would give them, male and female, a boost in the process leading to full citizenship. Of course there would have to be rules for those not physically qualifying for military service and other unique circumstances. Exemptions, however, would be severely limited. Those persons opting for a military career would be rewarded by accelerated pathways to citizenship. Implementation of the "Dreamer Plan" would solve some of the current recruitment problems plaguing the Services and establish the Dreamers as good examples of America's youth for millennials, who evidently don't have any other good role models to follow. Like most endeavors in life, most people only realize the benefits and personal satisfaction and fulfillment of military service, after they take the plunge and experience it outside of video games and violent programs on TV and in theaters. The "Dreamer Plan" is a win-win solution and can be shaped to solve many of the issues dividing us today. Let's do it. Col David Swan USMC(Ret)

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    • on 02 Mar 2018 at 10:14 PM

      We are losing our country and young people because the draft was stopped. Discipline has become a joke. Require 1 hour a week for military awareness for 14 to 18 year old students in public and private schools including home schooled. I think we would see a drop in drug abuse and related deaths; and a better attitude in this age group.

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    • john6185 john6185 on 01 Mar 2018 at 3:08 PM

      If we don't reinstate the draft, our youth will never respect this country completely. They want "free stuff," communism, socialism et, and is going to take the draft or Heaven forbid, a war of such magnitude that we will all join together as one if we are to defeat the enemy. I do not want war nor our country hit but with the present state of mentality among politicians and citizens I feel that it may be the only thing that will wield us together. If we are hit, it may be too late regardless. Something needs to be done now!

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    • on 01 Mar 2018 at 9:04 AM

      I strongly concur with restoring the draft for all men and women for several reasons: 1. It will build and maintain a stronger military. 2. More indiviuals and their families will recognize the demands on our service people. 3. We will grow and maintain generations of leaders for all segments of American society. 4. We will be better equiped, trained , and funded military for today and tomorrow. 5. Our younger generations will find out what it means to serve others and not just themselves. 6. More Americans will have more concern, awareness, and connection with the cost of our national security.

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