Military service

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Military service is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft (conscription).


  • Any recruiter will tell you that the incentive for enlistment is that it [being drafted] is inevitable if you don't.
    • Lewis Blaine Hershey, director of the Selective Service System, address at The American University, Washington, D.C. (December 11, 1966), as reported by The New York Times (December 12, 1966), p. 53.
  • At the present day, civilized opinion is a curious mental mixture. The military instincts and ideals are as strong as ever, but they are confronted by reflective criticisms which sorely curb their ancient freedom. Innumerable writers are showing up the bestial side of military service. Pure loot and mastery seem no longer morally allowable motives, and pretexts must be found for attributing them solely to the enemy.
  • We must train and classify the whole of our male citizens, and make military instruction a regular part of collegiate education.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe (June 18, 1813); in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb (1903), vol. 13, p. 261.
  • War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
    • John F. Kennedy, in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1979), p. 76.
  • A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living. Today's military rejects include tomorrow's hard core unemployed.
    • John F. Kennedy, statement on the need for training or rehabilitation of Selective Service rejectees, September 30, 1963. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 753.
  • Women should be permitted to volunteer for non-combat service,… they should not be accepted, voluntarily or through the draft, as combat soldiers…. We know of no comparable ways of training women and girls, and we have no real way of knowing whether the kinds of training that teach men both courage and restraint would be adaptable to women or effective in a crisis. But the evidence of history and comparative studies of other species suggest that women as a fighting body might be far less amenable to the rules that prevent warfare from becoming a massacre and, with the use of modern weapons, that protect the survival of all humanity. This is what I meant by saying that women in combat might be too fierce.
    • Margaret Mead, response to question asking her views on the draft (June 1968); in Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views, ed. Rhoda Metraux (1979), p. 35, 36.
  • No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community.
  • It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at a Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency,…
    • George Washington, "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment," enclosed in a letter to Alexander Hamilton, chairman of the Committee of Congress on the Peace Establishment (May 2, 1783); The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (1938), vol. 26, p. 389.
  • Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it?
    • Daniel Webster, remarks in the House (December 9, 1814); The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), vol. 14, p. 61.

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