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Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal

Bucky Parks

J. D. Pendry

I am writing...In hope that my telling this one story will help you understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military. - William Jefferson Clinton

I met Bucky Parks in 1973. He was one of our country's last military draftees. Bucky was a college dropout from Texas and was glad to be nearing the end of his term when I met him. He got his greetings letter from the draft board soon after losing his school deferment. He was smart, worked hard and played harder. Like most draftees, he had no problem telling you what he thought and had no military career ambitions. A combination that's hard to come by in today's Army and one that makes for a good soldier. Which is all we could ask of someone drafted for two years. I convinced Bucky that he should extend his term of service for one year and go to Korea. He did, and the last time I saw him in Korea in 1975 he was still working and playing hard. He left the Army after Korea. If not for the draft, Bucky would never have served.

There were plenty Buckies in the 7th Transportation Group, at Fort Eustis in 1973 and across the Army too. Our company clerk, a sergeant, was a schoolteacher drafted right out of college. He was the first person who ever explained my leave and earnings statement to me so that I could understand it (It was a complicated mess in those days - long before Defense Finance and Accounting Services came along). Our Graves Registration clerk got two draft notices, one from the NFL and one from the selective service. (Like Rocky Blier - ever hear of him?) The NFL waited. Without the draft, it's not likely that either of them would have served.

When I went through basic training in 1971, there were very few Regular Army (RA) enlistees in my unit. We had about an equal mix of draftees and reservists. The draftees and reservists came in much higher on the education and social scale than did the average RA. The reservists were a mixture of rich kids, professional athletes and the like - protected from Vietnam and heading back to their lives after a few months of training. The draftee mix ranged from college educated to high school drop out. Some of the RA's were such because a judge somewhere gave them the option of doing Army time or his time - another discussion for another day.

There was a lawyer in my AIT class. He was a reservist. I asked him why he enlisted in the Army. He told me he was going to pursue a career in politics and needed to have military service on his record (Makes me think of Al and George W.). Cleaning toilets and scrubbing barracks floors with a lawyer was great for my self-esteem.

Nowadays only a tiny percentage of American youth experience military service. Most of them come from our nation's economic middle and lower middle classes. Whenever I ponder this, I always wonder if we need to reinstate the military draft in this country. Then I think back to the mid 1980's and up through the Persian Gulf War about the great all volunteer professional Army we had - and for the most part still have. We hit a bump in the road with recruiting, but we'll fix that and again fill the ranks with volunteers. Thinking like that, I usually convince myself that there is no need for a military draft in our country. Just when I think I've convinced myself that we don't need a draft, other thoughts that I've subdued make their way out of my sub-conscious and try to persuade me otherwise.

When is the last time you heard of any of our rich and famous American citizens serving in the military? Let me see... there was Riddick Bowe. Two weeks and he was dropkicked out of Marine Corps Boot Camp. I guess he discovered that celebrity status didn't play well there.

I heard something, meant to be humorous, not too long ago. It said that only in America could a combat veteran be homeless while a draft dodger lives in the White House. I found much more tragedy than humor in that statement.

These thoughts raise many questions in my mind. For example:

  • If more of our nation's politicians had served, would we be having discussions about poor military health care, loss of benefits, and our kinder, gentler approach to basic combat training?
  • If more of our nation's politicians and rich and famous had drafted sons and daughters serving would they be so anxious to send soldiers to a place like Somalia? Would they refuse them what they asked for and needed - like Somalia?
  • If more of our movie star heroes had served, would we still see soldiers portrayed as bumbling idiot Bilkos or killing machine Rambos?

I could keep adding to this list of questions, but I won't bore you with more. You can think of your own.

Every time I have this self-debate I realize that the powerful people who run our country and the elite who take for granted all that it offers likely wouldn't - if they'd served their country in uniform. The military draft did much more for our country than just fill the ranks.

© 2000 J. D. Pendry