This Memorial Day may be a good time for Americans to ask ourselves: Do we still deserve our freedom? I’m not talking about our slumping economy nor even descrying our media’s unblinking distortion of issues from our porous southern border to the perfidy of Hillary Clinton. But today we are seeing the tumultuous confluence of two basic decisions reached nearly 50 years ago: the “right” of abortion decided by Roe v Wade in 1973; and the adoption of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) in 1974. While each choice was made separately, their protagonists could hardly have imagined how those separate choices would evolve to create twin challenges to our way of life.
Barely a year apart, two fundamental norms of American life had changed. The right of an unborn infant to live was now outweighed by the right of the mother to choose life or death for her baby. The historical obligation of the American citizen for wartime service had also changed, now becoming a career choice like pursuing orthodontics or agri-business. The rationales were correspondingly different. Abortion, whether or not guaranteed by the Constitution, needed to be safe and legal; the Vietnam-era draft simply needed to end. Fifty years later, we have an expensive, professional military in which less than half of one (>0.5) percent of Americans defend the other 99%. The death toll since Roe v Wade: at least 60 million infants although no one knows for sure.
As one of the last draftees, my reprieve came too late. But ten years into the AVF experiment, I served on the West Point faculty, once moderating a campus-wide debate on the role of women, The contending advocates: conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly versus Sarah Weddington, victorious counsel in Roe V. Wade. Even in West Point’s disciplined environment, the debate was a raucous affair; but at least our cadets witnessed the emotions and intricacies of the constitutional process they would soon defend.
But for me that argument was settled forever the next year, when our newly adopted 4-day-old daughter wrapped her entire hand around my little finger. I was thankful beyond words that her birth mother, finding herself “in trouble,” decided to protect this new life, choosing to set aside every lesser consideration. Thirty years later, a father’s emotions still run strong looking into her eyes and each of my three grand-sons!
Meanwhile, the Army kept getting smaller, post-Cold War reductions leaving the active force with a half-million soldiers. But then came the shock of 9/11. The voluminous memoirs of President George W. Bush, his vice-president, and his secretaries of State and Defense reveal a stunning omission: None of them apparently asked whether the AVF could sustain a long conflict. Rather than mobilizing the nation for war, the National Guard and Reserves were dragooned for extended overseas tours. Ordinary Americans were encouraged to return to the shopping malls or college campuses. “So your kid goes to Kandahar while mine goes to Yale. So what’s your point?”
With the War on Terror dragging on for almost 20 years, manpower became even more scarce and expensive. Meeting combat requirements meant sending the troops back for multiple combat tours to various hell-holes. Not only were our soldiers running exponential risks of PTSD, but they were also becoming increasingly isolated from American society as a segregated warrior caste. And what happened when these Other People’s Kids returned home as veterans? Although the Veterans Administration is unsure of the exact numbers, they estimate that 17-20 veterans commit suicide each day.·
As you may have noticed, the United States is now involved in two separate Cold Wars but is seriously outmanned in each. (Air Force pilots describe this condition as “discovering you’re out of airspeed, altitude and ideas.”) Making matters even worse are our internal contradictions, voices from the left made even more strident by the prospect that Roe v Wade may be reversed. Listening to them, one ponders our national responsibility for the Holocaust of the Unborn, those Other People’s Kids now being aborted.
As I write these words, my friends and neighbors in Uvalde Texas are grief-stricken by the senseless slaughter of 19 elementary school students and 2 teachers by a gun-toting monster quickly dispatched by local law enforcement. Might this latest outrage finally move our secular, prodigal nation to lower our voices, bow our heads and pray for God’s forgiveness?