Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Draft Card. . .

I was cleaning out my wallet the other day and I came across my Draft Card. Actually, its formal name is my "Selective Service System Registration Certificate." It looks like this (front and back):

What is this, my children might ask. When I was young, all males were required by law to register with their local "draft board" within 10 days of their 18th birthday. The front of the card indicates that I complied, having registered on January 27, 1956 (the 56 disappeared over the years as the card became a bit frayed); it was the day after my birthday and (as noted in a post last month) my graduation from high school. You can see the selective service number assigned to me and my address. (This was a time before zip codes and the local postal zone was entered after the city name.) There was no draft at the time but registration was designed to help the government find eligible young men if it should ever be reinstated. With the exception of a few volunteers, women were not in the armed services in those days and there was never any intent to include them in a draft if it became necessary to conscript citizens into the armed forces.

On the back of the card you can find my vital statistics at that time and the fact that I was registered with "Michigan Local Board No. 97." I really can't recall when the requirement to register ended. But apparently I took the bottom admonition seriously. I have carried my draft card with me ever since that day over 53 years ago although I'm not sure exactly when I stopped providing the Board with my changes in address.

Times certainly have changed. Now we rely entirely on volunteers to fill the ranks of the military. I must confess that I was never completely comfortable with the idea of a volunteer, or professional army. For some reason, I felt there was less chance of the military becoming a political force in this country if it was filled with conscripts counting the days until their discharge back to civilian life. I guess my fears were a bit misguided. But I do feel badly for those who stayed in the reserves or joined the National Guard after their tour of active duty only to be recalled to service in a time of need, separated from their families and sent into combat.

But I'm a dreamer. I somehow still think it is possible to achieve the kind of peace that does not require combat ready militias ready to go into battle at a moments notice. Donna does refer to The Ancient One as a Pollyanna.


Charles Gramlich said...

An interesting historical document. I wonder if my brother still has his.

Darlene said...

I graduated in 1943 and 3/4 of the boys in my class were already in the military. They had to stand up at the graduation ceremony and it was a bittersweet graduation knowing they would be off to war.

Some of them did not return and others were wounded. If only your Pollyanna attitude could stop war. What a wonderful world it would be.

Josie2Shoes said...

If believing that makes you a dreamer then I'm one too, Leon. If only there were many more of us... it could happen!

Sidney said...

When I turned 18 in 1980 it was at the post office in a fairly recently re-instituted draft. Time flies all around.

Leon said...

CHARLES - I was surprised to discover that I was still carrying mine.

DARLENE - My oldest brother graduated in 1943 and many of the young men in his class marched from commencement to the enlistment center in their caps and gowns.

JOSIE - Welcome to the club!

SIDNEY - My lids were spared the requirement of registering.