Little Known Candidate Fighting for Your Future
March 7th, 2008 by Pat LaMarche
Today’s column is for men — not just any men — men my age.
Relax, I’m not going to ask you out.
I just wonder — if you wonder — what your chances would have been had the Vietnam War continued a few more years and you’d gotten drafted.
We know, using figures from the 1969 draft lottery, that half of you would have been selected for service. And half of that group would have actually served. The other half of those selected would get dismissed for some reason — like a felony conviction, an education deferment or a health issue.
But what if you’d been one of the unlucky ones that got sent to Vietnam? Your odds of dying would’ve been the highest of all the guys over there because, as a CNN report points out, soldiers who were drafted, “were statistically more likely to die in combat than soldiers who volunteered — principally because the overwhelming majority of draftees sent to Vietnam were a part of the U.S. Army ground forces that did much of the fighting.”
And how would you be doing if you had gone and come back and were still with us today?
Well, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans approximately 400,000 homeless vets live on the streets of the U.S. at some point during the year and about half that number are homeless any given night. But those are veterans from all the wars. The coalition says that only 47 percent are from the Vietnam era. So the number of Vietnam vets on the street last night was only about 94,000 … only.
If the war had dragged on five more years to include men my age, maybe 20,000 of you would be reading newspapers from a dumpster instead of a newsstand.
And that’s if you had made it home. If the war had continued and things hadn’t gone so well … have you seen the Vietnam War Memorial? When you look at it, do you ever imagine — those of you who were too young to serve — do you ever imagine it with a few more panels? Have you ever closed your eyes and conjured your own name on that wall?
So what happened to the draft? Ever question why the Vietnam War ended around the same time that the government could no longer steal young men out of their homes and pack them off to boot camp? And if you’re around 50 years old, don’t you feel lucky that the draft ended in 1973?
It wasn’t luck.
It was Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and his six month filibuster that saved your life.
Thinking about that Vietnam War Memorial with a couple of thousand more names on it, maybe even your name, walking past the stone steps downtown that could’ve been your pillow last night, makes you want to send the guy a thank-you note, doesn’t it?
And, if you’re wondering where to find Gravel nowadays, now that we’re in need of mettle like his again — after all, we’re once again fighting an unwinnable war that we were suckered into by faulty leadership after being fed government sanctioned lies — well, Gravel is running for president.
You don’t hear about him because the big shots that craft our elections would like you to believe that there are only two Democrats left — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
And though you may not hear about him, he’s sure got a message.
See, the U.S. is responsible for 46 percent of the world’s military spending, and Gravel wants to cut that figure by 60 percent. He says that the preservation of the military industrial complex is the real reason for war — and he’s got the street cred to say it — he’s the guy who ended the draft.
All but forgotten by the press, discounted by his Democratic challengers who voted to finance that military industrial complex, Gravel’s got his work cut out for him.
But he’s undaunted; he’s faced long odds before — like when he saved your life — when he filibustered to keep you from dying face down in a rice paddy.
And now that man who saved your life back in the ’70s is in his 70s, fighting once again for your future.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.”
View the article in its original context here.