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Students express opinions on idea of draft re-enactment

February 11, 2003

Its lunchtime at Austin Peay State University, and the Morgan University Center is buzzing with students discussing classes, projects and plans for the evening.

Even at Austin Peay, a university situated within minutes of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, one of the most powerful Army divisions in the world, war with Iraq and tensions with North Korea generally are peripheral to student life.
February 11, 2003

It's lunchtime at Austin Peay State University, and the Morgan University Center is buzzing with students discussing classes, projects and plans for the evening.

Even at Austin Peay, a university situated within minutes of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, one of the most powerful Army divisions in the world, war with Iraq and tensions with North Korea generally are peripheral to student life.

But a recent proposal by two democratic lawmakers, Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and John Conyers of Michigan, asking Congress to reinstate the draft seems to be changing that.

“If you want to be in the Army, join it. You shouldn't be forced to go,” said sophomore Shenette Gavi, who totally disagrees with the re-enactment of the draft.

“It goes against the right to choose,” said junior Amanda Humel.

That sentiment was common among many students when faced with the possibility that fighting a war eventually may fall to them.

“It seems innately wrong,” said freshman Sherry Benitez, echoing what could be the motto of Generation Xers, who have never experienced a long war. “Everything we do is based on choice.”

The idea of being forced to fight is a daunting notion for anyone, especially for a generation accustomed to an all-volunteer Army. Americans have strong feelings about their rights and freedoms and resent being “forced” to do something.

Others, however, have taken the view that our freedoms already have been abused by attacks on this country.

“We were attacked,” said senior Chris McMahan. “Those actions caused our freedoms to be taken away. The only reason they would re-enact the draft is if it's a necessity. If it comes to that, I'd be willing to fight for my country.”

Senior Roger Grove also had strong feelings on the issue. “If our country and way of life are in jeopardy, then I support the draft,” he said. “If we don't defend who we are, then our nation will crumble. We'll end up in a state of chaos.”

While Grove agreed he didn't see a need for a draft at the moment, he also believes if tensions with Iraq and North Korea turn to war, it could become a necessity. On reflection, many students who were opposed to being drafted were less opposed to the idea of volunteering themselves.

“I'm against forcing Americans to serve,” said freshman Houston Lyle, “but I can see how it may become necessary if the conflict escalates. If it came to total war, I would gobut I would enlist. I wouldn't let myself get drafted.”

“I don't know if I could be on the front lines,” said Gavi, who initially disagreed with a draft re-enactment, “but I suppose if there were something I could do to help, I would.”

Students had mixed feelings regarding the inclusion of women in the draft.

“History has dictated that war is not fought by women and children,” said McMahan, who admits to having a traditional view on the matter. “I don't support them being drafted, but if they choose to go, then more power to them.”

Still others felt drafting women was a logical direction following the Women's Movement.

“Perhaps this is unconventional,” said Grove, “but I've always thought that, in order for women to be equal to men, they should stand on the front lines unless, of course, they have children.”

While some women students admitted they wouldn't know what to do or how to react if drafted, others expressed their willingness to do what they could for their country.

“There are plenty of women who would choose to go. Why force them?” said Humel.

To a generation of young adults who never grew up with a World War, a Korea or a Vietnam, the draft is as foreign to them as these wars. Accepting that the United States government has a constitutional right to build an Army if necessary can be difficult when personal liberties are on the line. Then again, others say this nation was built on sacrifice, and this may be the time for a new generation to step up and make their contribution.