Southeast Alaska Native Veteran’s Color Guard presents the colors during the Veterans Day Ceremony at the SE Alaska Native Veterans Park on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

Southeast Alaska Native Veteran’s Color Guard presents the colors during the Veterans Day Ceremony at the SE Alaska Native Veterans Park on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

My Turn: Reviving a duty of service to the country

I often wonder about the ever-moving changes that are taking place in our society. The increase in homelessness is evident on the sidewalks of our major regions as well as here in our own state. The extent to which cultural issues divide us. The dialogue coming from many of our leading universities that the constitutional right to freedom of speech justifies the growing attitude that anything goes. The reappearance of isolationism which negates America’s leadership role in projecting democracy and protecting peace. Our own border problem — on one hand we’re told that the border is closed, while our television coverage shows literally thousands of people crossing into the U.S.

The question comes to mind, is there a means by which we can bring about common sense and stability through a shared experience promoting patriotism and the values that have made America work and be the hope of the world for almost 250 years?

I’m wondering if we should consider implementing the draft. All healthy men and women would be drafter to provide service to the country for two years after high school or college. There would be no exemptions, as there were during Vietnam. The service would be provided to the country in many useful forms — military, teaching, childcare for working moms, assisting the elderly, etc. The pay would be minimal because the concept is that the service is owed for citizenship and the right to live in our great country.

I personally experienced the draft, which was still in effect during the Korean/Vietnam conflict. I hadn’t been out of college for more than a couple of weeks when I felt someone tapping on my shoulder saying “I want you” — and there stood Uncle Sam. I chose to enlist in the Coast Guard, after having been in the reserve during my high school years. The opportunity to experience regimentation and the pride of accomplishment while serving on two ships plying the coast of Alaska had its rewards as well as its frustrations.

In any of the proposed suggested services young people would meet other young people from different regions and different backgrounds. For example, city kids would meet rural kids and would be introduced to one another and each other’s views. There would be the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn to get along, which could be a means of reducing the polarization in our politics going forward.

Voluntary service programs of this sort like the Peace Corps, Vista and others have worked well for America. What I’m proposing would require all healthy young adults to participate.

In short, a mandatory two-year requirement to serve our country would instill patriotism in our young people, bring about learning and discipline, and assist in establishing moral character.

The sooner the better.

• Frank Murkowski is a former U.S. senator and governor of Alaska.

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