Frank Schaeffer's Nov. 26 op-ed piece about his Marine Corps son took me back almost 40 years. I, like his son, was part of the socioeconomic class that, in general, didn't favor military service. Things weren't quite as elitist as they are today, and we had the Selective Service System as a partial equalizer. Nonetheless, I was not inclined toward military service any more than his son's classmates were.

It was the spring of 1963, I had just defended my doctoral thesis, and I was looking forward to my June wedding and going on to my post-doctoral training. However, my draft board had other plans, and it set in motion the process by which I would be reclassified and placed in the pool of draftable men. I appealed the action based, in part, on a procedural error but was finally advised that the only way I could avoid the draft was to enlist.

So home I went, with my legal research in tow, to discuss with my parents my intention to retain counsel and teach the draft board a lesson about following the rules. My mother, an attorney herself, who, to my knowledge, never voted, waved the flag or sang a patriotic song, ended my quest with a single comment. "It won't hurt you to serve your country."

I did.




As a third-generation Marine, I want to thank Frank Schaeffer for his thoughtful perspective on the Marine Corps and the increasingly endangered concept of national service. Not unlike his son, I had the good fortune to grow up in an affluent Washington suburb, go to a "nuclear-free" liberal arts college and enjoy a variety of career options. I chose to become a Marine officer, eventually serving as a pilot in places most Americans would be hard pressed to find on a map: the Philippines, Somalia, Djibouti, etc.

I came to my decision because my parents, along with other role models such as my Boy Scout leader, instilled in me the concept of public service -- of becoming part of something greater than myself. As a result, I have had the honor to work with incredibly dedicated young men and women from all walks of life who are considered blue-collar cannon fodder in many elitist circles. It is my hope, in our post-9/11 introspection, that America will encourage more young people to give back to our society, whether with a two-year stint in the Peace Corps or as a member of the armed forces. I base this hope on recent positive signs, such as the decision, albeit under federal pressure, by both Yale and Harvard to open their law school doors to military recruiters.

Let's all say a prayer of thanks for those who serve our country.