COUNTERPOINT: Proposed Mandatory National Service Not Focused Solely On Military Service

Photo by AmeriCorps Flickr

The response to my post about national service has been interesting to say the least. With comments running the gamut on the Task & Purpose site and Hirepurpose’s Facebook page, I believe it’s worthwhile to follow up.

First and foremost, what I proposed was that national service should not focus only on military service. As a Marine, I may personally believe the military is the best way for people to serve their country. However, it is not practical on a national scale. Not everyone is fit for military service either physically or mentally. Also serving in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps can make just as big an impact. Lastly, I envision a national service program as something that citizens want to do and feel pride in doing. The chances of that greatly increase if, within the program, we offer choices that fit with each person’s ideas of what service should be.

Secondly, many of the comments centered on the length of time for this mandatory (or heavily incentivized) service. A lot of people said one year was not enough time. I think, again, it’s important to balance the requirements of each service option with what is practical. As someone who has served for many years, I may think one year is a relative pittance. But, for those that have never served in any program or any capacity, requiring more than one year of someone’s life might be asking too much.

Lastly, some readers commented that they rejected the idea because they did not or do not want to be forced to do anything they don’t want to do. They believe it is unconstitutional and a violation of their basic freedoms. To these people I say I completely understand the impulse to reject an encroachment on our personal freedoms. It’s in our American DNA. But freedom is not absolute. That is anarchy. What the Founding Fathers tried to establish was a system of government that allows a citizen to be as free as possible within an organization structure. Laws, by their nature, constrict us. They reduce the number of accepted actions. They compel us to act in certain ways for the good of the community we have agreed to establish.

Many of these laws may seem burdensome, but that doesn’t make them unconstitutional or unnecessary. For example, the draft was constitutional. And selective service is still in effect. If there was another world war, people would be called to duty, even against their will. So the constitutionality argument would not seem to apply here. But, even if it was correct, I would then argue that this national service program would be built on an even stronger foundation if we implemented it as a constitutional amendment. That would mean a large majority of the nation or the nation’s representatives would have agreed that this was necessary for the betterment of the country.

What’s interesting is when I often tell people that everyone should serve, the number one response is, “Well, I pay my taxes.”

But, ask yourself, why do you pay those taxes? Because it’s the law. Because you must or risk going to jail. Because the constitution was amended to require you to. If that law, if that amendment, were repealed today, how many Americans would choose to voluntarily donate their hard-earned money? I would contend not many. Not nearly enough to provide the country with the funds to function.

Well now I am saying the same thing with regards to your time. To find that common, prosperous future, citizens need to contribute part of their time and efforts to serve their fellow Americans. Period.

Eric Navarro is a combat veteran, having served two tours in Iraq. Now a Major in the USMC Reserves, he is also the author of “God Willing: My Wild Ride with the New Iraqi Army.” Follow Eric on Twitter @ericnavarro.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.

Read More Show Less

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.

Read More Show Less

The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.

Then the rhythmic clapping begins.

This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.

"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."

Read More Show Less

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.

"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."

Well, I feel better. How about you?

On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.

"We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told members of Congress of the 100+ escaped detainees. ISIS has about 18,000 "members" left in Iraq and Syria, according to recent Pentagon estimates.

A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."

"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.

President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.

"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."

The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."

Trump said that "small number of U.S. troops" would remain in Syria to protect oilfields.

Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

Read More Show Less