We read the news out here with interest, more on some days than others. When the subject is Iran or Afghanistan, Thailand or Africa, we think about the Soviet Union and the chances of war. When and if it comes, my classmates and I are likely to be involved.
In about three months we will graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and begin pilot training. We have no personal stake in the debates over registration and the draft or in the emotional editorials they have inspired. The only issue for us is the question of service to the country and the definition of duty. Even that is theoretical because we have made our decisions. We have spent four years here in Colorado and have an obligation to spend another seven years on active duty. We could have resigned last fall before making that commitment; over 40 percent of the original class of 1980 made that choice. But for various reasons the rest of us decided to stay on for a minimum of eight more years. Many of my high school friends can't understand that choice. But there are worse things to do than serve in the defense of our country. And there are a lot of things that make an Air Force career attractive to me and my classmates.
I know that to many people it sounds corny to say "serve in the defense of our country," especially to those who really aren't arguing against the draft but against the idea that there is any threat to the nation today. My only point is that after all the shouting and doubting are over, somebody has to be there to preven a threat or fight one if it arrives. That is what I mean be "serve in the defense of our country." Not very corny when you think about it.
We're the ones who will have to fight the wars. We will suffer the casualties and mental strain of combat and that is not an exciting prospect. We know there is no glory in war.
Still, there are things worth fighting for. America is worth fighting for. But a lot of Americans are spoiled by their prosperity and freedom. They want the good things the nation offers without paying a price for them. The question is, "Who will do the fighting?"
People may say, "Not me" or "Not my son or daughter." I could never come up with that answer for myself, and I guess that is the main reason I am in the military now. I couldn't enjoy the freedom and comforts this country offers while somebody else was fighting or dying to secure them. I've had a good life so far, a comfortable existence with immense freedom. I think now I have a duty to help maintain those opportunities for those who come after me. I don't regard service to the country, whether through volunteering or through the draft, as a form of slavery. It is a chance to fulfill an obligation owed to the nation.
My friends here feel the same way.