1957: Elvis and the draft

During the GOP debate a few days ago, some candidates avoided the draft question.  In other words, they want to send troops to the Middle East but continue to do so with a volunteer army.

For the record, my son served as a volunteer in the U.S. Army.  I am very proud of him.  Also, our volunteer army performed admirably in recent wars, from the Gulf War of 1991 to Iraq to Afghanistan.

A lot of people have forgotten that we used to have a draft, or required service in the U.S. armed forces.  The draft ended in 1973.

On this day in 1957, Elvis Presley got his draft notice:

After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. 

For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. 

Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. 

After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.

I remember telling my sons a few years ago about Elvis getting drafted.  They said, What?

The draft should be brought back.  It makes your armed forces more representative of the population.  It will also force some young people to understand that there are unique responsibilities to being a superpower, such as defending our way of life.

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