With the book officially pubbing tomorrow, I was asked again today why I feel it's an important subject to address, given that it doesn't feel like we're at war at the moment. The first thought that comes to mind is that the United States is indeed at war, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. I suspect we don't hear much about these conflicts because they are dangerous to cover, and because the American news-consuming public isn't particularly interested in them.
The American public wasn't very interested in war on Sept. 10, 2001. But that changed dramatically the next day. I pray nothing like that ever happens again, but history does have a way of repeating itself, and the United States rarely seems to go very long without becoming involved in a war somewhere.
I wrote Price of Duty to ask what I felt were important questions about the military and young people that have not been previously addressed in any depth in YA literature. Questions such as: At what age should high school (and in some cases, even middle school) students be encouraged to select a track that will lead to military service?
There are more than 3,000 JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) units in high schools around the country. Are students in 9th and 10th grade mature enough to make decisions that will affect the entire course of their lives? Currently, military recruitment is allowed in many high schools. Should that continue? If the answer is yes, does the military have an obligation to present an honest assessment of the risks and dangers?
The issue is not whether we need a military. Sadly, given the world we live in, we must maintain the ability to protect ourselves. To me, the issue is, if young people are going to be enticed into the military with financial bonuses and promises of advancement and heroism, shouldn't they be made thoroughly aware of the potential dangers?
As Bertrand Russell wrote, "War does not determine who is right, only who is left."