The yelling began the instant the doors closed on the buses taking me and the two hundred other draftees from Nassau County Long Island to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn to be inducted into the army.   

We are in need of instilling in our young people a sense of responsibility for the communal benefit of living in this incredible incubator of human potential.  We must demand more of those to whom we leave the great legacy “All men/women are created equal.”  

Yelling is the primary form of communication used in the first two months of service.  I was now under the rule of the unified code of military justice, and there was no such thing as “I quit” or “I’m not doing that” without dire consequences involving words like “imprisonment” and “hard labor”.  It was November of 1966, and whatever coddled innocence that was bestowed upon me by loving parents was soon gone along with my hair, clothes, privacy, and freedom.

We are in need of instilling in our young people a sense of responsibility for the communal benefit of living in this incredible incubator of human potential.  We must demand more of those to whom we leave the great legacy “All men/women are created equal.”  

After six months of basic and advanced training at Fort Gordon in Augusta Georgia, I was sent to spend a year with the 44th Signal Battalion in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam where I learned first hand how much I did not want to be in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam.  

I along with my fellow soldiers slept in mud, burned human waste, and ate canned food that was left over from the Spanish American War. 

I was luckier than many, and if it weren’t for Tet, I never would have had to fire a weapon, albeit with my eyes closed. I was certainly not thrilled with being in the military, but like a bad relationship, I am incredibly grateful I survived it, and believe I am the better because of it.

It is time to renew the call for some kind of required national service. I am not saying that everyone must serve in the army, but we are in need of instilling in our young people a sense of responsibility for the communal benefit of living in this incredible incubator of human potential.  We must demand more of those to whom we leave the great legacy “All men/women are created equal.”  

There is much to be done beyond defending ourselves militarily: Schools need help, hospitals need help, parks, lakes, orphans, veterans and highways need help, big cities, small cities, animal shelters, homeless shelters, old bridges and new immigrants need help.  

I was approached by a teenager who asked me if I wanted to help save the oceans, I replied “I already tried to save the oceans, it’s your turn.”  

If I sound like an old man it’s because I am an old man, and I fear if we do not start to insist that everyone help row the boat then we shall surely founder being battered by waves of self-interest, self-pity, self-segregation, and self-indulgence. 

In emphasizing our diversity we are forgetting our commonality, and neglecting the importance that everyone have some skin in the game, no mater what color it is.