On this Veteran’s Day, all Americans should offer a prayer of gratitude for those brave men and women who have given of themselves by serving in our armed forces. They are the defenders of our country and fulfill one of the most fundamental Constitutional responsibilities conferred by the Founding Fathers on the Federal government – the protection of the nation from foreign intruders.
Many have fallen in the task. Many more have returned home shattered in body or mind by their service. Most have never heard those of us who have not served say so much as, “Thank you for your service.” Almost all of us take them and their role in protecting the nation for granted, and that is a terrible shame.
As a child growing up I had an image of the armed forces that was pretty much formed by television. Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle and, of course, the indomitable Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway in “McHale’s Navy” presented us with a light-hearted look at our men in uniform. Perhaps we needed to laugh to distract us from the serious business in which they were actually involved.
Several days ago I saw an interview with R. Lee Ermey, better known as “Gunny” who is a retired Marine turned actor. You might remember him for his portrayal as the hard-nosed DI from the 1987 movie, “Full Metal Jacket,” the story of a platoon’s training during the Vietnam War.
The interviewer asked him, “What do you consider the biggest problem that America is facing?” Ermey responded, “There are too many people who are willing to sit around and collect a paycheck from the government rather than go out and earn one on their own.” He’s on to something there.
One of the most touted “benefits” of Obamacare is that people will supposedly be able to have their insurance “subsidized,” that is if they don’t make too much or too little money. Those who are doing well and contributing to the economy will get nothing. Those who do nothing and feed at the public trough will get Medicaid – which provides next to nothing.
Our politicians in Washington talk about subsidies as though they were the children of Israel, wandering around the desert and a merciful God miraculously provides them with manna. But we all know the truth – that is that subsidies are merely a way for those who do not have to get something from those who have earned what they have. It would be fairer to refer to this as a tax rather than a subsidy. And, of course, if the “tax” is insufficient to cover the subsidies we will just put the deficit on our National Credit Card balance.
Ermey was a fortunate man. He recounted that when he finished his time in the Marine Corps he was sitting around the house when his father said, “If you plan on sitting on your duff you’re mistaken. Go out and earn your keep.” And he did. As he explained it, he got a “lousy” job and then got a second one that was just as bad. But he had the dignity of working and paying his own way. And those lousy jobs led to better ones and then others that were still better.
It’s been forty years since we ended conscripted military service. During that time the number of Americans on some form of public assistance has skyrocketed. Some of those who receive supplemental food assistance and are the beneficiaries of other welfare programs have become enrolled as a result of the lackluster economy. For others it is the inevitable result of family tradition.
Perhaps it’s time that we re-thought our position on having an all-volunteer armed forces. Instead of encouraging a life of indolence, would we not be doing them and society as a whole a favor by going to our eighteen year old welfare recipients and telling them, we want you to, “Be – All that you can be.” The discipline and skills that they would learn in a military environment would serve them well for the rest of their lives. And the taxpayers would actually get a return on their investment.
Who knows, the mere suggestion of having to spend a few years in the armed forces might actually get a few of them “off their duffs” and out in the workplace. And that would be a good thing in and of itself. Whether that actually happens will, of course, be up to Congress and the Commander in Chief.
Since there is such a high correlation between welfare recipients and crime, particularly in our inner cities, we might just transform some of these young men from their present direction of threatening your life to defending it. And for that, all of America would be grateful.