In 1967, the MIA program for young LDS men included a lesson that hasn’t been part of the program for many years, at least in the United States: On the third week of September that year, the young men were taught about their military service obligations and the possibility of coordinating that obligation with other personal goals, such as college and marriage, and religious goals, such as serving a mission.
The privilege of citizenship in this land is coupled, as all privilege, with equal responsibility. Under current federal law, this responsibility for the youth of this nation imposes a six-year military obligation. this discussion is designed to give a broad overview of the military programs as they exist at this time. For more detailed and timely information, the group leader may wish to call upon resource individuals, such as Selective Service board members, reserve officers, retired military personnel, or a high school vocational counselor.
Each young American, upon reaching age eighteen, automatically becomes a part of the manpower pool to which this nation looks to meet its military needs. By law, every male citizen and immigrant is required to register with the nearest Selective Service local board within five days after reaching his eighteenth birthday, and from then until he is over the age of liability for military service it will be his responsibility to maintain contact with his local board and keep them aware of his current address and any major change in his personal life (marriage, children, occupation, schooling, etc.) in order that appropriate decisions may be made concerning his military service. Once a young man realizes his responsibility regarding military service, he would do well to intelligently plan for this part of his life. In making his plans it is well for him to remember that by serving in the military and fulfilling his obligation, he may find it to be a very satisfactory mutual proposition – he will serve and at the same time gain and grow while he is doing it.
Types of Military Service
As an alternative to being assigned indiscriminately to a military service by the Selective Service System [i.e., draft board], large numbers of the youth of America will enter the armed forces in one of the many programs offered by the various services. Enlistment procedures for all branches of the armed forces are similar. However, programs offered by the services differ in length of enlistment and also in opportunities for specific training and assignments.
Very detailed information was charted for the young men’s consideration: The various branches of the service; range of ages accepted in each; length of active duty for various types of assignments; eligibility requirements and restrictions (i.e., some opportunities were limited to college students; others to those who lived within a designated distance of reserve unit headquarters); officer programs; aviation training, and so on. Leaders were charged with keeping abreast of any changes to such programs made since the material was compiled (February 1967).
One of the greatest decisions each young man had to make was whether or not to wait for the draft or to enlist voluntarily.
Those who desired or expected to serve found a few practical advantages to volunteering:
* Eliminating the uncertainty of waiting for the draft, i.e., being able to choose your own time, place, and type of service
* Taking care of military obligation first, then continuing with plans for a mission or school
* Choosing a special branch or service and type of training
* Taking advantage of the benefits accruing to the veteran after serving on active duty
Some practical advantages of deferring the decision to enlist were given, most seemingly for those who would prefer to postpone, minimize, or avoid military duty:
* Completing some college training or a mission before reaching the age currently being drafted
* Qualifying for additional deferment on the basis of college enrollment and other measures
* Providing for a shorter period of active reserve service by going in for two years through the draft
* Expecting the Selective Service regulations or demands for quotas to be less demanding at some future date
Some Questions and Answers
Q. Why do young men face military service obligations?
A. Under present world conditions, our government feels it has no other alternative than to maintain adequate national defenses while working for an enduring world peace.
Q. What age group is subject to the draft?
A. Young men between the ages of eighteen-and-one-half and twenty-six.
Q. What exceptions are made?
A. Those who aren’t mentally and/or physically qualified are exempt.
Q. How long a period is a young man obliged to perform military service?
A. At least six years of various combinations of active and reserve duty.
Q. What fundamental choice does a young man have in fulfilling military obligations?
A. The choice is whether to take voluntary action in planning his future or just sit back until the draft board sends him his “Greetings.”
Q. By what birth date must a young man register with his draft board?
A. On his eighteenth birthday or within five days thereafter.
Q. Is he then eligible to be drafted?
A. Not until he has been given a physical examination and classified.
Q. Can you volunteer for any of the armed services after you have received notice to report for induction?
A. No, but any time up until then.
Q. May you volunteer for one of the various services after you have received your preinduction examination?
Q. If you volunteer, do you have the choice of service?
A. yes, but the day you hear from your draft board to report for induction there is no longer any choice.
The formal lesson concluded with this statement:
It’s Your Decision
Fulfilling your military obligation is not easy, but the benefits gained while doing something for your family, community and country can far outweigh the hardships. It can change your whole life and give you better understanding of others. It can make you angry, disappoint you and cause disgust. You alone will determine its effect on you. You alone can make this decision … to fulfill your “… duty to country.”
Apart from how you may feel about military service, then or now, how does that strike you as far as helping young men understand their legal and moral obligations and options? Do any of you old enough remember discussions like this? In the absence of a draft, are young men still given any counsel through the church program regarding the option of military service, or is that left strictly to personal preparation?
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