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The number of American citizens who qualify to join the military under current standards is quickly decreasing as the country faces the longest period of armed conflict in its history. As a consequence, service members must go on multiple deployments as the attrition rate rises faster than recruitment, forcing too many units to rely on unfit, unstable, and unprepared service members who put themselves, their comrades, and our country at risk.
When the United States ended the draft after the war in Vietnam, many assumed that American citizens would raise their right hand, take the oath to protect the country, and serve in uniform out of a sense of patriotism. After the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, this assumption was put to the test — and the result remains a disappointing reality as less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has answered the call.
Despite the shortage of qualified and willing talent, wars in the Middle East and parts of Africa have placed demands on the military like never before, threatening morale, discipline and effectiveness. Examples include multiple suboptimal policy changes such the provision of waivers to enlist high school dropouts, felons and others normally not qualified; increasing soldiers’ deployments from 12 to 15 months; and “stop loss” orders that froze discharges and kept families apart for longer periods.
So what can be done? Will Congress bring back the draft? Highly unlikely, and unlikely to work even if it did. The Department of Defense estimates that 71 percent of the roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States today would fail to qualify based on the current enlistment criteria because of physical or mental health issues, low education scores, or negative background checks. Among those who are qualified, many young people choose not to join or feel no obligation to serve in uniform. This has to change, and AMVETS has made it its mission to do so, starting with outreach to primary, middle, and high school students through the AMVETS Americanism program.
Inspiring a sense of patriotism in American children of all ages and walks of life is the best recruiting strategy for our future military and national defense.
What is the AMVETS Americanism Program?
The AMVETS Americanism Program is a patriotic program the organization offers schools and youth organizations as a resource for teaching children in kindergarten through 12th grade about their American heritage, civics and citizenship. The program includes flag drawing, poster and essay contests that are grade specific and age appropriate.
Who is eligible?
All school age children, K-12. They may attend public, private, parochial schools or may be home schooled. Participants may also come through any youth group such as Scouting or from Church Sunday schools. Students in kindergarten–1st grade can enter the Flag Drawing contest. Students in 2nd–5th grades can enter the Poster contest. Students in 6th–12th grades can enter the Essay Writing contest
How does a child or young adult participate?
Teachers or youth group leaders hopefully will take the initiative to involve their students. The program addresses learning standards in civics and presents excellent topics for writing and art assignments, which teachers can incorporate into their classes.Teachers may also contact a local AMVETS post or department to invite veterans to visit their classes. Students whose teachers or schools are not participating in the program can still enter the contest specific to their grade as a take-home or after-school project. Parents may contact a local AMVETS post or department, on behalf of their children, to submit entries or contact the AMVETS National Programs Department at 301-683-4031.
How do I enter?
Entry forms (PDF files) with contest rules, including the “themes” can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:
Americanism Contest Packet – PDF file (1.23 MB)
The 2017-2018 Americanism theme is “Why is the Constitution important to me?”
Our future themes are:
2018-2019: “Why should you say ‘Thank you’ to a Veteran?”
2019-2020: “What does freedom mean to me?”
2020-2021: “What do I think of when I see the American flag?”
2021-2022: “Why should we honor and respect our Veterans?”
Click here to see a list of the 2017 winners.
AMVETS is a member of the Citizens Flag Alliance
5 November 2017
Thank you for sponsoring my trip to Valley Forge. Over the week I have made a lot of friends and learned so much about American history. The experience has been amazing and one I won’t soon forget. Thank you again so much for this opportunity!
Thomas Borre, Indiana
Thank you for the opportunity to come to Pennsylvania this weekend, November 2nd through the 5th. It is an opportunity that I will never forget and I will take the lessons I learned here and use them for the rest of my life. This past weekend has been super informative and the lessons taught were very beneficial. Some of the workshops gave me some ideas that I may want to do when I am older. I loved the mock trial and learning how amendments are made. Learning about our government was super cool. I also loved coming out to Pennsylvania and seeing the places where our nation began. This will forever will be a memorable time in my life and I will never forget the memories made with my new friends in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Sincerely, Madison Hilgenkamp, Nebraska
Thank you so much for selecting my essay for the National Americanism Essay Contest on the topic of “Why is it important to vote?” as winner for New York State. I am incredibly grateful and deeply indebted to you for having such faith in me and for thinking that I deserve such a rare opportunity. To be perfectly honest, I have never won anything on such a large scale or been selected for anything like this as an accolade for my work. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I will always cherish and remember your organization for facilitating my first big success. The program itself was incredible and I learned so much and met so many wonderful, unique people. This weekend has been one of the best weekends of my life and it will stay in my memory forever.
Sincerely, Mary Donnelly, New York
Thank you for offering all of us the opportunity to be able to travel to the birthplace of our nation. We were able to visit Valley Forge, where the minutemen and George Washington went to. We visited one of the most important places to U.S. history. We were in the room where it happened. Where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where the Constitution was signed [and] where the Constitutional Convention happened. So many places where history was made. It was an honor to be at a place where once, some heroes like Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington once stood. The history of this place is amazing and overall awesome. I have taken lots of pictures that I will go share. Besides the history of this amazing place I was also able to see all different types of cultures [from] around the U.S. I met some [people] from N. Carolina, Connecticut, and New York, and I met some new people from California. I hope everyone here truly enjoyed this experience, because this was one of [my] best memories. As a[n] Immigrant of Mexico, this place makes [me] feel proud of the country I moved to and hopefully this Nation will continue to prevail. And that this Nation Under God will continue to succeed and the government of the people, by the people, and for the people will never perish. THANK YOU!!
Jorge Ochoa-Reyes, California