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Lodi students mixed on draft program

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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 10:00 pm

Impending U.S. military action against terrorists has some local high school seniors eager to fight for their country and others somewhat uneasy.

Some young men approaching 18 years old - the age required to register with the Selective Service System - are concerned about being called to war.

Federal officials say the draft program is currently on hold and it's unclear whether it would even be activated. Congress would have to pass legislation giving President Bush authorization to begin the draft if needed.

At Lodi High School, some seniors recently said they would support the effort, in response to the terrorist attacks last week on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"If we are in a war and our help is needed, then we should support our country," said Nolan Person, 16.

Peter Taylor, 17, would be eager to serve, he said. "They wouldn't have to draft me," Taylor said. "I would sign up."

Last week's terrorists attacks has even stirred some students to join the armed forces. "It's given me a reason to sign up," said Luke Linn, 17, who is looking at joining the U.S. Army.

Some Tokay High School seniors also said they would support the draft if it was needed.

"If it's your country where you were born and raised, then you have to protect it," said Paul Singh, 18.

In another class, Melissa Rose-Parent, 17, donned a star-shaped U.S. flag headpiece and red, white and blue ribbons. She plans to join the U.S. Air Force following graduation. "There needs to be more people supportive of our country," she said.

Others echoed Rose-Parent's sentiment. "I kind of wish that I was a guy so I could be drafted," said Annie Benbrook, 17.

A handful of students at both schools opposed the draft being reinstated.

"I don't think it's fair," Matt Lewis said. "If someone doesn't want to go to war, why should they be forced to fight?" Lewis, 17, is a Lodi High senior.

Samuel Sanchez, 17, said being drafted would be scary. "I don't want to fight. I'm chicken," the Tokay senior said.

Another Tokay student joked about moving to Canada while other students said they were concerned about family members possibly going to war.

Tokay senior Emily Sonne said she's worried her 19-year-old brother could be drafted.

The draft began in 1940. President Franklin Roosevelt created the country's first peacetime draft program to fill vacant positions in the armed forces. It ended in 1973 when the military changed completely to volunteers. However, young men were still required to register.

John Fletcher, a Lodi High social science teacher, said he was surprised the majority of students in two of his classes supported the draft. "Ten years ago, we would not have had that many students supporting the draft," he said.

But the country was in a different mode following the controversial Vietnam War, when the draft was last used, Fletcher said. "They see the tragedy that has befallen the country. That's what got them into this patriotic spirit," he said.

Tokay social science teacher Steve Von Berg said he's fielded some questions from students about the draft. Some are apprehensive. Others didn't know they had to register for the Selective Services, he said. "They don't really understand it. They've never had to deal with it before," Von Berg said.

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