VOICES: Veterans should be honored as heroes for sacrifices

Members of the American Legion Post 218 perform a 21 gun salute and Taps during the annual observance of Veteran’s Day in Middletown, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Members of the American Legion Post 218 perform a 21 gun salute and Taps during the annual observance of Veteran’s Day in Middletown, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Military heroes like John Glenn, John McCain, Colin Powell, and Norman Schwarzkopf come to mind when I think of Veterans Day.

I also think of my brother and my five brothers-in-law, all of whom served in the military, four of whom served on the front lines in the Korean War. They, and millions like them, are true military heroes and all of them make me proud to be an American. And then I think with pride of my own military service during the Vietnam War.

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Merle Wilberding
Merle Wilberding

Currently there are more than 17 million veterans in the United States, or about 7% of the population. Many of our veterans were drafted, especially during the Korean and Vietnam wars. The draft was officially eliminated in 1973, and since then, an all-volunteer force has provided our nation’s security. Whether a person was drafted or enlisted that person became part of our military defense and, upon discharge, became a veterans.

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Over the years, the difference between serving in the military as a draftee and serving in the military as a volunteer has produced very different consequences. During the Vietnam War under the draft system Vietnam vets (with few exceptions) served only one year in Vietnam, and they typically started counting down the days upon their initial arrival in Vietnam. Under the all-volunteer program, many members of the military have served multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. Some may have had as many as six to eight tours in these war zones.

Those multiple tours can be debilitating over time, but our volunteers stick to their commitment, and stick to their patriotism. For the rest of the country, it is too easy to take them for granted. After all, so the saying goes, they volunteered. What they forget, and perhaps what we all forget is the effect that having a volunteer army has had on the rest of the country.

Sure, some may object to our being in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that even includes some high-level politicians. But, think about the mood we would have in our country if we were drafting our young men and women and sending them all to Iraq or Afghanistan, even if for only one year. I believe there would be never-ending national marches in Washington, and around the country.

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Without the draft, the protests seem more intellectual, and certainly more muted, even as the Iraqi war and the Afghanistan war have gone on for more than 15 years. That would never happen if the draft was in place. Our country would not stand for it.

The absence of a draft should double down our appreciation for veterans ― draftees and volunteers. They serve so that we can be free and so that the rest do not have to serve. They are patriots and no one should call them “suckers” or “losers.” It is important that we recognize the sacrifices these veterans make so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding is a community contributor. Community contributors are people who frequently submit fact-based opinion pieces.

Letter to the Editor

MAYOR PLAYING PARTISAN GAMES - Jeff Rezabek of Clayton. Rezabek is a Republican and a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

People in the Miami Valley are extremely tired of partisan politics. Even before we finished the election season, Mayor Nan Whaley was playing politics with the next one. Dayton and our region deserve better than this type of negative leadership and blame game.

Instead of attacking Senator Rob Portman for doing his job, Whaley should be working with him to tackle the real problems Daytonians face and staying focused on solutions and not partisan attacks. Dayton has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, one of the largest food deserts in the region, and is one of the hardest-hit cities in the opioid epidemic.

Portman has led the fight to stop drugs from coming into our community, providing record funding for treatment and searching for solutions to address the region’s issues.

Whaley should be working with Senator Portman - not launching partisan attacks against him and playing politics more than two years away from the next election.

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