They tell me we have no draft-dodgers anymore, for the homely reason that we have no draft. But I am not sold: morality is not so casually supplanted by technicality. The greatest mentor of my youth told me: “There is no Switzerland in the soul.” Yet there was a Canada in the American soul four decades ago and surely it has not suspended its tariffs. There has got to be a mournin’ NAFTA, and Veterans Day seemed like just the time to ponder.
First I must fess up about my own family’s draft-dodging in World War I. The story, as my grandfather told it, started back in the 18th century in a Ukrainian town near Kiev. The Homnicks were famous cantors and singers, so when one of them lost his mate in late middle age, he managed to corral a young wife and they had a few kids before he died. She struggled to raise them alone until she took sick, still with youngsters at home. She summoned the Jewish communal elders to her bedside, reminded them of her husband’s service, and made them swear to protect her children.
In those days, the poorest Jewish children were impressed into the Czar’s army, usually for 25-year terms. Fearing this fate for her orphans, she insisted the elders commit to keeping her descendants out of the military for ten generations. The ninth of these was my great-grandfather, Israel Homnick, who arrived on these shores in 1906. In 1908, his son, my grandfather Aaron, followed him hither. Aaron was 15 then and in his early twenties when the war was in earnest. Israel believed that the sainted family matriarch must be honored and his son spared conscription. So he slipped a few dollars to someone in the Selective Service.
As it happened, Israel’s brother had also immigrated here by then, along with his son… also named Aaron. The brother shrugged off the family tradition and made no provision for his kid. What do you think happened? The Selective Service guy accidentally exempted the wrong Aaron, so my grandfather got his draft notice after all. This led old Israel back to his connection to make the correction. My grandfather’s notice was rescinded and the cousin’s freebie remained in force. That courageous widow reached out from Heaven and fixed things her way.
I wanted to get our family back into service mode, but it did not work out to do it here. In my thirties I lived in Israel and became a member of the IDF Reserves (please don’t tell the State Department, they frown on that sort of thing), finally breaking the taboo on Homnicks in uniform. I looked darned good, too.
All of which brings me to the present day and the incredible insight which washed over me on Veterans Day. The United States Army gave up the draft because of pressure by Democrats in the 1970s. The result is that our military is now the only true libertarian segment of our society. That is to say, theoretically we are taking a chance, as the most powerful nation in history, of having zero soldiers. By definition, a volunteer army means that the fate of the nation — and perhaps the world — lies in the hearts of the hardiest in our midst. Only if they step forward is there a dam between us and the deluge.
Think about the government interventionists and their growing stranglehold on every segment of life. You cannot let an individual decide on his retirement because he may impoverish himself. You cannot let him decide where to smoke, how to eat, what to drive, how to run his business, his restaurant, his pension plan. We have lost trust as a nation in the Creator Who is the invisible hand knitting the tapestry of human commerce. Only in one area are the Democrats willing to trust our fate to blind fortune.
Yet they are always there — aren’t they? — to heed the call of freedom. The boys and girls of winter, of grime and grit and gravel, of cliffs and caves and crags, of blasts and blows and blood; they never fail to find the front. We are safe, you and I, have no fear at all, but only so long as we produce wholesome youth who know there is no valor in Vancouver but there is nobility on Normandy.
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