A Retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant Responds
As one who has served in the Army both as a 1-A-O (we preferred being
called "Conciencious Cooperators") and later as a 1-A reenlistee
completing a 20-year career as a Noncommissioned Officer, I feel pretty
well qualified to submit my thoughts and recommendations. I heartily
concur with nearly every passage of your document. It is exceptionally
well written, and every young person who may may now be considering
military service or face a future draft call, should read it.
I had to smile, though, at the pundits labeling of Rangel's call to
return to the draft as "... a protest against perceived socio-economic
inequality in recruiting...". Those were almost the exact words used by those moving
to abolish the draft back in the early 70s because there was "perceived
socio-economic inequality" in the Selective Service System.
If our country does resume conscripting young men (and quite possibly
young women would be included this time), I fervently hope that our
Church will also reactivate the Medical Cadet Corps. I had the
privilege of attending "Camp Doss", as it was known then in honor of
Desmond Doss, at the Oregon Campmeeting Grounds in August 1963. When,
in March 1966 I was drafted, the training I had received proved
invaluable, enabling me to adjust to military life and fulfill my
military commitment with honor and dignity. It also gave me a real
advantage over my peers when the good assignments and promotions came
around. If the draft comes back, our young people will need and benefit
from MCC training no less now than we did then.
For the present, though, our message to our young people who might be
considering military service should be stronger; not necessarily "Thou
Shalt Not", but words that clearly state the certainties they will
Your statement that "... those who enlist may face potential difficulty
obtaining religious accommodation." is woefully underpowered. Those who
enlist WILL face difficulty. It is not a possibility. It is not a
potential. It is a certainty.
Since my retirement in 1992, young people and their parents have asked
me whether I would recommend for or against military service. I tell
"Before you join any branch of the US Armed Forces you should first
seriously and prayerfully consider two decisions you will face. The
first will occur during your first few days of basic training. The
second will occur, perhaps not immediately, but it will occur.
1. You will be issued a weapon. That weapon is designed and
intended to be used to take the life of another human being. You will
be expected to train with that weapon and later use it, if necessary,
for its intended purpose. Decide now whether your conscience can accept
2. You will be expected to perform your duties whenever they
are needed, whether on Sabbath or any other day of the week. Your
superiors may or may not work around your Sabbath Day observance, but
they are not required to. Decide now whether you will break God's
Sabbath to succeed in your military career or sacrifice your military
career to keep the Sabbath Day Holy. One or the other will occur.
There will be no compromise.
Posponing your decisions on these questions until they are in your face
will only lead to certain shame and dishonor from one side or the
One more thing. If the draft resumes, and our Church succeeds in
obtaining considerations from the military authorities similar to that
which existed during the former days of conscription; our young people
need to know that persons who join voluntarily waive any right to any
exceptions based on religious convictions. It would be as though their
enlistments had occurred when there was no draft.
Lorne H. Vernon
Master Sergeant, Retired
United States Army