Sunday, November 26, 2006

Veterans: economic victims because of their service

The very best way to rebuild the links between the battlefront and the homefront requires reinstating the draft. Ever since the Vietnam War era, those with less opportunities have served as our Army enlisted personnel, with barely a college guy in sight. In my Signal Corps company in 1965-66, there was only one college graduate out of 150 enlisted men. Me. Since the repeal of the draft, the situation has gotten worse, with military and economic systems that literally force poorer young people to join the regular forces and the National Guard.

The Angrist-Krueger analysis of World War II veterans suggests that they earned five percent less over the decades after their service than those who did not serve. Joshua Angrist’s study of the Vietnam experience calculates that military service during the Vietnam War reduced average overall earnings for white males by 15 percent. Skills acquired in the military do not make up for lost civilian work experience.

Today, our poorer youth are still penalized for Army service while the sons and daughters of the political and commercial elite avoid risk from actions their fathers supported, such as in Iraq. I am a former Peace Corps Volunteer and Army Sergeant and have published military history and memoirs for 23 years, having read hundreds of manuscripts by veterans. Those experiences have taught me it is arrogance on our part to maintain a two tier system where the disadvantaged that do serve are economically punished for the rest of their lives. --Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

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