Bring back National Service

Today I listened on the radio to one of the most moving interviews I have ever heard. Digger Jack Bell moved many callers to Melbourne’s Triple M’s Hot Breakfast to tears with his tales of just how privileged he feels to have fought for his country. Jack regularly visits schools to talk with the younger generation about the plights of the ANZACs and the conflict and danger which our troops who are currently serving face everyday.

Far from being dismissive about the reaction and interest of school children, Jack is full of praise for the level of knowledge and understanding he meets when visiting schools. However, perhaps it’s the older generation which let’s this country and its diggers down? There are many Australians in their 30s and 40s who were born and grew up just after the backlash of the Vietnam War. So appalled was the majority of the country about the nastiness and apparently futility of sending our troops to Vietnam that war did indeed become a dirty word. This meant that many children during this era missed out on the truly great, if harrowing, stories of Gallipoli and the diggers who fought in World War 1.

Having listened to the proud and eloquent Jack speak, the next thing that came on was the news that Matthew Newton has again been arrested. This young man of a privileged upbringing just can’t seem to pull himself together. He has been diagnosed as being bipolar and having obsessive compulsive disorder, and while no one should belittle mental illness, Matthew is in a better position than most to get the treatment and support he needs to manage these conditions. He can choose the path he takes in life. He can ask for help and get over his problems.

Back in the early 1914 the young men and women who went to war for not only their own country but for the battle to keep the world free, had no such choice. Conscription meant that only a select few did not have to go to war. Sadly, many lives were lost but for those who did return, they returned heroes. National Service took many young men and women to fight in Vietnam and while many revile this war, the importance of National Service should not be overlooked.

I can’t help but think that for the young people who are struggling to find their way in the world today, that some kind of national service would be one way to give them a skill, show them some discipline and help them be the best they can.

I was also reminded of a quote which has often been repeated by footy great Ron Barassi, “if it is to be, it is up to me” – ten little words with such great meaning.

Do you think there is a generation which has missed out on the story of the ANZACs? Can this be rectified?

Why not listen to Jack Bell’s interview on The Hot Breakfast?

Should there be a national service scheme reintroduced in Australia?


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