There’s nothing nobler than volunteering to serve in our country’s armed forces. Back in May, Connie and I attended the Armed Forces Day celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We were the guests of our son Will’s father-in-law, Mike Kiefer, a retired Brigadier General in the Indiana National Guard. Mike is a lawyer in Indianapolis and a great guy.
Part of the celebration was an actual induction ceremony for about 50 young men and women into the various branches of the armed forces. While we were standing there waiting for them to be sworn in, I became momentarily acquainted with a guy who, obviously, had served in some branch of the service because as the ceremony was taking place, he learned over to me and whispered, “That’s the last time they’ll be ‘asked’ to do anything.” (Just before the actual swearing in, the officer in charge asked the group to stand and raise their right hands.) I was thrown back to the time I spent in Army basic training and smiled at the unalterable truth of his comment.
My mind went back to an August day in 1968 when we all arrived at Ft. Knox, Ky., in response to a letter that began, “You are hereby ordered to report…” We had already been sworn in and were simply waiting for the letter telling us when and where to report for BCT, (Basic Combat Training). You’ll notice the letter didn’t start by saying, “Please report…” or “If you don’t mind, we’d like you to report…” We were ordered to report, in no uncertain terms.
Keep in mind that the summer of 1968 was at the height of the Vietnam War and there was still a draft. Those of us who had just finished college knew that it was far better to join the National Guard or the Reserves then to be drafted. In those days we knew that because there was a draft, the likelihood of Guard or Reserve units being sent to Vietnam was pretty small, certainly unlike today when substantial numbers of our forces serving in combat roles in the Middle East are, in fact, National Guard and Reservists!