A few weeks ago, we headed to Canton to sit in on a taping of Thacker Mountain Radio. It was a great evening on the square as people of all ages congregated for a night of music and community. The event coincided with the celebration of Armed Services Day.
Representatives from each of the armed services participated in the ceremony to honor current military and veterans. It was quite impressive and moving to see the flags and full uniform regalia for each branch highlighted. The Jackson Symphony Orchestra did their part by playing theme songs as each participant marched to the stage.
Members of the audience who were currently serving or had served in the various branches proudly stood as the first notes of their songs rang out. “Anchors Away” played and all the old Navy men stood tall. “From the Halls of Montezuma” brought several former Marines to their feet.
And it made me sad.
I was sad because so few young people, or even people of my generation, stood. As I noted the age of the standing veterans, I wondered if this exercise would even elicit any responses in a few years. What happened to shared sacrifice? What happened to commitment to something greater than yourself?
I’m no war hawk or rah-rah military person, but I think we lost something when we gave up on the draft. Going to war should be a collective decision and a collective exercise. In fact, as a woman, I can say that I think it’s a shame we have only asked men to serve. Don’t we all owe something to our country?
I think we should institute a public service requirement for all young people. It wouldn’t have to be military service, but it should be something that takes us away from home and puts us in a setting that reinforces the idea of common goals and common sacrifice. Young people today need some time to grow up before they commit to a vocation. They need adults, other than their parents, guiding them toward adulthood. And we need to develop strong leaders among the next generation by exposing them to an experience that reinforces our unique American ideals.
My husband was too young for Vietnam. While he dutifully registered when it was his time, he never had to serve. As he watched those old men rise to their full height upon hearing their songs, it made him sad. He knew there was something he missed.
>> Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is email@example.com, and her website is www.newper.com.