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May/June 2024 -   -  

National Service as a Legacy Issue  


Vietnam Veterans of America has always been a bastion for the voices of those who served when called upon by our nation. Recently we have found ourselves contemplating a concept that resonates deeply with our experiences—Universal National Service.

Over the past year we have engaged in discussions in the pages of The Veteran and in person among ourselves about whether or not to advocate for a National Service policy that would require all Americans to serve their country, be it in the military or in a civilian capacity. The echoes of the Vietnam War draft and our service ring loud in these conversations. Our unique perspective as the last American generation that experienced mandatory National Service through the Selective Service System is not just valuable – it’s vital.

To better understand where VVA stands collectively on this issue, we are launching a comprehensive survey to gauge our members’ views. This survey will help determine if Universal National Service should be one of VVA’s legacy initiatives. We need to know if our shared experiences make us supporters of a system that might knit the fabric of our society closer together or if our experiences make us cautious about the implications of such a system. And we need to be aware of the complexities and challenges such a mandate would entail.

The survey will be introduced in upcoming issues of The Veteran, detailing how all members can participate and also encourage others to lend their voices to this crucial debate. We will share more information about the survey, the questions, and the survey’s methodology at the National Leadership & Education Conference in August in Reno. Together, we can ensure that future deliberations on National Service are enriched with the wisdom only we Vietnam War veterans can provide.

Jack McManus was on hand at the April 12 dedication of a portion of Pennsylvania State Route 403 in Indiana County as the Captain Harry G. Cramer Memorial Highway in honor of the former Vietnam War Green Beret, a Johnstown, Pa., native and the first American service member killed in action in Vietnam. Also attending the ceremony were past and current VVA Pennsylvania State Council presidents Tom Haberkorn and Larry Googins, other VVA members, and retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Hank Cramer, who was a child when his father was killed on October 21, 1957, during an ARVN Special Forces training mission near Nha Trang.




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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman