Wednesday, July 02, 2014

This is the Army, Mr. (and Ms.) Jones

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, my father tried to join the Army.

At 29, and working in plant that did war-related work (produccing industrial fine wire), it would have taken a while for Uncle Sam to catch up with him.

But he was single, living at home with his mother, not leading the most exciting life you can imagine, and his country was at war.

Although my father was a fit, vigorous, and athletic young man, the Army rejected him: flat feet.

He tried to explain to the recruiter that he had something called “Indian feet”, a concept that held that feet might be flat, but they wouldn’t cause you any pain. Thus, despite flat feet, you would be able to march. (I have no idea whether my father made this term up, but when you google “Indian feet” it’s all about the fetish.)

Anyway, the Army may not have wanted my father, but the Navy was willing to take him. (Less marching, more boating.)

In today’s Army, if Yahoo answers are correct – and why wouldn’t they be? – you can be flat footed and still serve.

But these days, flat feet seem to be the least of the Army’s recruitment worries.

Today, they estimate that 71% of American young folk can’t pass muster.

The military deems many youngsters ineligible due to obesity, lack of a high-school diploma, felony convictions and prescription-drug use for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But others are now also running afoul of standards for appearance amid the growing popularity of large-scale tattoos and devices called ear gauges that create large holes in earlobes. (Source: WSJ Online)

Back in the day – WWII, Korea, Vietnam – I don’t think obesity would have been much of a problem. There just wasn’t as much of it going around. When I think of the nearly fifty kids in my grammar school class, there were only two that would have been considered “fat kids.” In retrospect, one was probably moderately overweight, while the other would have likely been classified as obese.  That’s four percent. In my high school class – ninety girls – there are only a couple of girls that I remember as being at all overweight. Today about thirty percent of kids and adolescents are categorized as overweight or obese.

High school diplomas also didn’t matter as much when there was a draft. But aptitude tests were given, and, when my husband’s draft cohort was bussed from Bellows Falls, VT to Keene, NH to take the test, only a handful passed. (It might have been smart thinking to fail the test – who in their right mind wanted to go to Vietnam? But, in Jim’s case, it might have been difficult for someone with a master’s degree in chemistry to flunk the Army induction test. In any event, Jim got deferments by working as a chemist for various government agencies.)

I do believe that felony convictions has always been something of a deal breaker, and ADHD just did not plain exist.

As for tattoos, well, folks got them when they were drunk and on leave while in the service, not prior to going in.

And ear gauges – thanks to the WSJ I now know what those thingies are – in days of yore, they were only seen in the pages of National Geographic, and only among members of primitive tribes.

I thought nose piercing was weird enough. Don’t boogers get in the way? And tongue piercing just makes people talk funny. Plus it seems like an invitation to developing cancer. But boring a large hole in your earlobe I just do not get in the least.

The military’s estimate that 71% of those aged 17-24 would be rejected for service is, if true, quite disturbing.

Come on! If you’re not qualified to join the Army, you’re probably equally unqualified to work in any profession that requires any modicum of intelligence or skill.

Sure, it can be argued that tat sleeves and holes in your earlobes don’t preclude you from doing a job – pick a job, any job. But I personally wouldn’t be comfortable seeing a dentist whose face was covered with tattoos, or hiring a lawyer with a two-inch plug in her distended earlobe. I guess this, at least unofficially, makes me a stuff old fart.

Meanwhile, it’s no wonder that these poor members of the all volunteer army have to do so many tours in crappy places. There just aren’t enough of them. Which may, come to think about it, be a good thing. Might just keep us out of some dumb-ass wars…

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