Sadly, in America today, a vast number of young people feel disconnected from their country. We don't have to look too far locally to see that.
For many years, politicians, usually while campaigning, have tossed about national service references, but few have put any effort behind it once elected.
I am inspired to write this in another devastating summer of wildfires with shortages of firefighters and related support staff.
It leads me to suggest that Congress seriously consider reinstating the draft but in a new form: two years of mandatory national service in a wide variety of fields. In other words, a draftee will not have to carry a gun and wage war necessarily but may choose from a menu of service options that might include a federal fire service, trained and available for fire fighting when necessary, and for habitat maintenance fire prevention work during non-fire seasons.
Other national service areas could include environmental protection, forestry service, inner-city development and social work, medical training, infrastructure maintenance, alternative energy source training, disaster recovery, arts programs, and so on.
The carrot would be modest pay and generous college tuition credits plus job experience accrual and a form of veteran's benefits, depending on the legislation.
National service could be staggered to accommodate education, family and other requirements.
The benefit to all of the participants and the rest of the nation is that we will be restoring the broken connection younger generations have with America.
As they age, these national service veterans will carry with them the sense that they "served" their country, and they can compare notes with their peers who also served. It wouldn't hurt to have an entire Congress full of women and men who fulfilled a national service duty. Surely a better national dialogue would evolve.
As we try to heal and rebuild America in the next years to come, let's call on Congress to make national service a priority.
Frank DiMarco is a U.S. Navy submarine service veteran who has had careers in railroading, aviation and photography. He is a co-founder of we-vote.org. He lives in Portland.
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