I was very pleased when I read that 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch had been rescued after 8 days of captivity in an Iraqi hospital. The young Army supply clerk suffered fractures to both legs, her right, her right foot, right ankle, skull, and spine (which will all require multiple surgeries to repair). Reports conflict as to whether or not she was shot. But given her condition, she was probably tortured and starved as well. After her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers posing as civilians, the Washington Post reported that she shot several Iraqis with her sidearm before she ran out of ammunition and was overcome.
Lynch continued fighting even after she was pretty badly hurt, even though fighting wasn't supposed to be her job. That's a pretty good showing for a teenager of a gender considered too fragile for combat positions.
But when I looked at her picture in the paper, I saw the faces of all my friends in high school and in college who signed up for the National Guard or ROTC to try to get a better life for themselves.
According to an article I read in the Columbus Dispatch, Jessica and many of her friends signed up for military service because their home town, Palestine, West Virginia, has a 15% unemployment rate.
My city of Columbus, Ohio has less than half that unemployment rate; people from West Virginia typically come here to seek work. I've know local people with college degrees and solid work experience who've remained unemployed for over a year.
Right now, Jessica and teenagers like her fresh from high school in depressed towns have very, very few job options available to them other than joining the military.
If I were an extremely cynical person, I'd think the Bush Administration planned to not do anything of substance about our bad economy.
I can hear the post-inauguration meeting with Rumsfeld now: "Well, Dubya, you know we're gonna need to take care of business in Iraq and the other countries on our agenda. We're gonna need a lot of strong young soldiers manning the guns, tanks and supply lines, and you don't want to be the man to reinstate the draft. The draft will guarantee you don't get reelected. So let's just make sure all those kids who'd be flipping burgers or shelving books are learning to lock-and-load instead. Throw the public a tax cut -- that'll be popular, and it'll keep things on track."
Yes, who needs a draft when much of your target demographic -- poor and working-class kids in their late teens and early 20s -- will inevitably go to Uncle Sam on their own, especially after they see all those sexy "Army of One" ads promising them a life of independence, adventure, respect, and money for college?
I hope Lynch is strong enough to recover and is able to get on with her life and desired career as a kindergarten teacher.