Trump Military Assault Revives Vietnam and the Draft

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Vietnam War Draft Lottery

Rock Creek, Montana   One nice thing about being mostly off-the-grid for a bit is missing the daily craziness of the emerging political campaign in the United States. Reading the latest news of Donald Trump’s assault and disrespect of the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier in Iraq in 2004 was simply mind-boggling. Is there really a politician from dogcatcher to the White House who doesn’t realize that in America, no matter what our politics or views on war and peace, who doesn’t realize that we give respect to our soldiers who fall in service to our country? Yes, it turns out there is one: Donald Trump!

I can’t believe this, but I thought in 2008 with the victory of Barack Obama over John McCain, we had finally, and thankfully, left Vietnam and the issues of compulsory service at the hands of the draft behind, but now with Trump’s callousness, we are right back in the political quicksand of Southeast Asia again. I feel more like Rip Van Winkle waking up after years of sleep, than simply someone off-the-grid for 48 hours! On this Trump-created political issue, Hillary Clinton, for a change can’t say anything, and from what I can tell, equally thankfully, hasn’t said anything, because she gets a pass, since women were exempt from the draft, so no dissembling or memory lapses on her part are necessary.

Can’t say that for the Donald either. He remembers nothing. Being of Hillary and Donald’s generation, I can categorically assure everyone everywhere that it is absolutely a bald-faced lie. I could say definitively that there is no man of the Vietnam Era who doesn’t vividly recall every detail of his experience with the draft, especially how he might have ended up not serving in Vietnam. George Bush the first was the last of the World War II generation to serve as President, but from that point on we certainly are all familiar with the second George Bush’s time as perhaps a National Guard pilot, and we also heard Bill Clinton’s various stories of how he avoided the draft repeatedly and were wildly familiar with other candidates like John Kerry and John McCain and their experiences in the service.

On this score Donald Trump claims he’s clueless. He pretends he got a high number even though he had already won a series of educational exemptions and then a 1Y deferment based on a willing doctor’s note saying that he was unfit because of bone spurs, all of which occurred and put him in the clear way before the lottery was imposed by a country desperate to make the system seem fairer. Now in the dimness of his memory and perhaps the induced fog-of-war, he knows the bone spurs magically disappeared, but also can’t remember when they arrived or where they went, who the doctor might have been or whether he actually had a physical or simply left the note with the local New York City draft board.

It is way past time for Vietnam and the draft to recede as a political issue at this level, but lying and the truth are always valid concerns when we vote for a president. All of this latest Trump mess from the disrespect of Muslims and our war dead to the make believe stories about his lack of recall on the draft and how he avoided service, though he claims to have always, silently, opposed the war, seems to be vivid proof of another classic example of the breaks easily obtained by someone who was rich when the call came in for yet another US war that was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

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Military Unemployment Especially for Women Vets

New Orleans  I’ve wondered about military unemployment since spending time with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Seoul on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  Both enlisted years ago in the U.S. Army.  He stayed in until he qualified for a decent retirement, and then over recent years managed to get virtually the same job in logistics as a G-11 civilian supervisor for the last four years in several locations in Korea.  We talked at length about their next move, hopefully back towards home in the middle south where they have family and a mess of grandchildren now in the Houston area, where their son retired from the Navy.  They have become experts in tracking the prospects on the elaborate posting systems, but I was startled when they said that sometimes there were more than a 1000 replies to a posting.

Thinking about it for a minute, it made sense.  A downsizing military force has to both keep “young” enough to fight and figure out a way to muster out some of the same people they had convinced to make the armed forces a career.   Looking past the family ties, what is the story on military unemployment?  Is it the scandal Mitt Romney alleged or something different?

A bit of light research reveals that grabbing the facts from the fiction around veterans’ unemployment is very tricky.  Overall unemployment for all veterans – regardless of age – is actually significantly lower than general unemployment at only 6.6%.   At the same time the problem of the “lost generation” being created by the Great Recession also punishes soldiers taking off their uniforms.   Veterans have shared, if I can say that, the very gradual recovery so that soldiers mustering out from the post-9/11 enlistments and our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now experiencing 9.7% unemployment which is down from nearly 12% not so long ago.

The most disturbing unemployment statistic I stumbled on involved women, the vital but precariously maligned part of our military forces.  Unemployment for returning women is almost 20% (19.9% to be exact), which is horrific, especially when you consider that this is not an insignificant part of our enlisted numbers at 15% of the total.  These are not my father’s armed services!   Looking around I found a report from WTOP.com with the following report:

Veterans groups have their own theories why so many returning service women are having such a tough time finding work.  Some say a big problem is that many of these female vets have children, and after long deployments abroad are looking for jobs that allow them to combine parenthood and work.

My first thought when thinking about military women is not the notion of military “moms!”  The fact this is the case for so many also says undoubtedly  something about employment prospects that have real meaning for women in the general economy that makes the military attractive for young women with children in spite of separation from family and children.  This also puts a whole different complexion on the issue of sexual harassment of women in the military which seems to be bringing down both the high and mighty in the command structure as well as being epidemic in the ranks without any satisfactory resolution.  (It was embarrassing while in Tokyo recently to be confronted again by Japanese horrified at yet more vicious and violent rapes of teenage women on Okinawa by some of our soldiers stationed there, bringing renewed calls from citizens and Japanese political parties for us to exit the area!).

I would have thought women with military experience would have been high on the corporate hiring wish lists, but it seems from the numbers to not be the case.  What is it about discrimination that it follows you everywhere, regardless of the record?

Something to think about on Veterans Day?

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