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Is the all-volunteer force all volunteered out?

After watching the military spouse community’s reaction on social media to President Obama’s comments about why the Ebola quarantine rules for the military differ from the rules placed on healthcare workers, I couldn’t help but think one thing;

Our military community is one giant exposed nerve.

{mosads}Many military spouses felt slighted by Obama’s perceived flub when he insinuated that healthcare workers are volunteers and military service members are not, despite the fact that our military has been an all-volunteer force for over 40 years. Just imagine how things would look right now if it weren’t for these volunteer forces.

I don’t think that Obama’s comments were meant with malice. However, I agree with what my fellow military spouse, Angie Drake, wrote over at the Daily Kos:

“If there is no scientific reason to quarantine people returning from these nations, then why quarantine the military at all? I guess because they’re military. You know, they didn’t volunteer…I know on the one hand exactly what the President meant to say. He means that military members have no choice. They were sent without being asked for their permission. I get that. But he’s wrong when he says they didn’t volunteer.”

After more than a decade of our service members “taking time out from their families, from their loved ones and so forth” (President Obama’s words for the healthcare workers but not our military members), it’s no wonder military spouses are outraged over the prospect of an extended quarantine imposed on the military but not on other “volunteers.”

Whether the quarantine is warranted or not, this entire situation highlights the fact that our military community is on edge.

The mere thought that we’d have to spend even one more day apart from our serving spouse than necessary, especially when it isn’t “based on science and best practices” makes our defenses go up. Immediately.

What concerns me even more is the growing gap between those who serve and those who don’t, especially when looking at something like an  Ebola quarantine.

Our non-military citizens might be asking themselves, “What’s the big fuss? What’s a few extra days for safety’s sake? Remember, you signed up for this.”

Our service members did volunteer. I get that. I’d like to think the president gets that, too. Whether or not America gets that is open for debate. But I know one thing- Obama is wishing he could get a do-over on his comments because what he said definitely struck a nerve in the military community.

Volunteers or not, I don’t think that our military community or our nation could ever imagine that we’d see warfare on this scale for this length of time. We didn’t think  that military intervention would be a long haul event on a decade plus scale. Precision strikes, clear mission, in and out…sure. Not this. And surely not layered over a horrid economic downturn. Plus Ebola.

At this point, our all-volunteer force is running out of volunteer spirit, because how in the hell did we think that we could keep recycling the same people to fight like this for this length of time without becoming somewhat bitter and tired? And then to watch their compensation and benefits get put on the line despite the overuse  of our service members?

Is it truly fair that the 1 percent who serve and the families that support them continue to singlehandedly shoulder the burden of securing freedom and, now, health and well-being, for the entire globe while the other 99 percent of America goes about their business as usual?

“Not my son.”

“Not my daughter.”

“Not me.”

“But thank you for your service.”

As our nation prepares to tackle ISIS, Ebola and whatever else comes our way, it’s time “We the People” had a talk about how we can bridge the gap between service to country and service to self: universal national service.

I know what you’re thinking. Not a draft. Not everyone is cut out for military service. Point taken. But regardless of how you feel about universal national service, I think we can all agree that we have to do something to get the entire nation on the same sheet of music when it comes to service and sacrifice.

There’s more than one way we can serve. Military service is just one. We have so many other needs within our own borders– health care, education, community service, infrastructure– that we can address as citizens of the United States of America under universal national service.

I’ll be honest, lately I feel like we’re just “the states;” there’s very little “united” about us. We have no shared sacrifices. No shared vision. No shared responsibility. It’s time to change that. It’s time to put the united back in the United States of America.

Domingos-Lupher is creator and editor-in-chief of NextGen MilSpouse.


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