“I Eugenio Cortez, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God”
These were the words which started my career in the US Army. I stated it twice. Once when I joined the Army Reserves and second when I volunteered for the Draft so I could go on Active duty. I was a draftee for two years until I reenlisted for another four years.
Most of my career in the Army I served with men who were mostly draftees. They came from all walks of life and from different states. They had left their homes and employment to serve at least two years as enlisted men.
The draft is not new. It has gone all the way back to the Revolutionary war and up to the Vietnam War. The survivors of those wars became veterans who were either wounded or battle scarred for life and lived their lives remembering their friends who served with them. There were also veterans who were either leaders responsible for sending their men into harm’s way or were in a position away from the front lines. In wartime, these were the lucky ones.
It’s not easy for a veteran to discuss their role in a rear echelon position, but they too served as support elements. They were the cooks who served the meals, the drivers or mechanics who drove or repaired the vehicles which were damaged. The medical personnel who brought in injured men from the battlefield and the doctors who served as surgeons in a hospital set up in the rear. All are veterans. They too were subjected to enemy shells or sabotage.
Each war was different. World War II was supported by the people and everybody did their share to win. We had a common enemy and it was a necessary war. The Korean war was a conflict in which neither side won. The Vietnam war is still being debated as to why we were there.
Those veterans who served in world War II came back more knowledgeable of what they needed to do to have a better life. They grew up during the Depression and from their training they learned a profession or a trade they could use for employment after the war. Their comrades in arms who gave up their lives inspired them to go on with their life and pursue their dreams.
Although in the Korean and Vietnam war there were men who were drafted, there were also men who volunteered to do their patriotic duty to serve their country. Others were forced to enlist or go to jail. In Vietnam, these volunteers found themselves with draftees who had been teachers, lawyers, and other professions. Most of them older than the volunteers.
Let’s not forget the “lifers” who spent their entire military career going from one war to another. They and their families suffered the deployment of years in foreign countries. Some families went with the career soldier wherever he was stationed. Other families had to stay behind and weather the storm of not knowing how their loved one was doing.
We are all veterans and we honor the soldiers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines who have been deployed to the Middle East. Because they are fighting or have fought on those battlefields, they have earned the right to be called Veterans.