Should the U.S. require mandatory national service?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Most of us have no trouble celebrating the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas (Hanakkah, Kwanzaa), Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

We might be a little neglegent in celebrating Arbor Day or President's Day, but it's not unusual to take in a Memorial Day service on our way to the lake or golf course.

But if there's one national holiday that deserves our attention, it's today, Veterans Day, Nov. 11. That's because we owe so much to those who have put their lives or careers on the line to serve in the armed forces, or even commited their entire careers to serve their country in the military.

Some 21.2 million of us are veterans, 1.6 million women, 9.6 million 65 and older, and 50,004 who served during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam era.

While the U.S. military has been all-volunteer since 1973, those who volunteer and those who submitted themselves to the draft all deserve our respect and gratitude.

While all citizens have the right to be heard, we somehow pay more heed to those we know have paid their dues through service in the military.

But some say all of us owe a debt of service to our country. Yes, it was founded on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but our nation has always depended on those who are willing to set aside self-interest for the common good.

Besides the military, we already have national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps -- should some sort of service be required of all citizens?

The National Constitution Center offers pros and cons of the idea.

In favor:

* Our nation already requires citizens to do things like paying taxes, sending children to school, and, now, to have health insurance.

* The government needs to foster a sense of common identity and national purpose among citizens who are free to express diversity and public disagreement.

* National service helps meet important needs such as maintaining parks, assisting in hospitals and providing assistance during natural disasters.


* Mandatory national service violates the concept of liberty.

* National service can be accomplished voluntarily rather than through mandate.

* Mandatory national service will create a large, costly bureaucracy and provide worse services as well as deprive participants of the benefits of volunteering.

What do you think?

Do you favor mandatory national service?

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